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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Last Twelve Miles

Narrator: Romy Nordlinger

Tantor Audio

ISBN: 9781728299839

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Publication Date: 06/04/4024

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

Two real, brilliant women on two sides of the law, in a daring game of cat and mouse…

1926, Washington, D. C.

In the Prohibition Rum Wars, the Coast Guard is losing. Eleven million gallons of illegal liquor a year have created a booming smuggling economy, with criminals wreaking havoc on American cities, and everyday citizens thumbing their noses at Uncle Sam.

But the Coast Guard has a new, secret weapon—one of the husband-and-wife pair who invented cryptanalysis and trained Great War soldiers—to crack smuggler codes, intercept traffic, and destroy the trade, one skiff at a time. That secret weapon is a 5'2 mastermind in heels, who also happens to be a wife and mother: Mrs. Elizebeth Smith Friedman.


When Marie Waite—wife of a rumrunner and mother of two little ones—notices discrepancies in cargo, she insists on accompanying her husband, Charlie, on a run from their home in Miami to Nassau. There, not only does Marie witness her husband's shortcomings, but she becomes enthralled by Cleo Lythgoe, "The Bahama Queen," who announces her retirement while regaling the thugs at the bar with tales of murder and mayhem on the high seas. In spite of Cleo's warnings about a "new man in the government" who seems to know where they are before they get there, Marie knows an opportunity when she sees it, and she wants the crown for herself so badly she can taste it.

So begins Marie's plan to rise as rumrunner royalty long enough to get her family in the black. What she didn't count on was that the more sophisticated her operation grows, the more she comes on the radar of the feds, nabbing criminals by the daily dozen. Once Marie knows who she's up against, she's more determined than ever to triumph.

On the other side of the law, Elizebeth is the only codebreaker battling scores of smugglers. From solving thousands of intercepted codes and ciphers, to riding along on Coast Guard patrols, to national travel, to testifying in court rooms—all while managing her household—the strain begins to wear on her. Once the work becomes personal, and she discovers Marie as a premier adversary, Elizebeth's desire to catch the woman becomes almost obsessive.

From the glamorous world of D. C. Intelligence to the sultry shores of the Straits of Florida, The Last Twelve Miles—a tale of ambition and envy—is based on the true story of two women masterminds trying to outwit each other in a dangerous and fascinating game of high stakes.

My Review

Erika Robuck's latest historical fiction, THE LAST TWELVE MILES, is a masterpiece, from the captivating front cover to the meticulous research, glamour, intrigue, danger, exotic locales, and suspense.

Inspired by a true story, this gripping novel unfolds a dangerous, electrifying high-stakes game of cat and mouse between two brilliant women on opposite sides of the law.


1920s Prohibition Era and the Rum War: Involving plenty of illegal booze, organized crime, greed, money, violence, rum-running, bootlegging, smuggling, danger, and desperation.

Special Agent Elizebeth Friedman is headquartered in Washington, D.C. She is one of the few women assigned to the Key West area, where smuggling is high. At 34 and pregnant (that she keeps a secret), she has her eye on the King of Rumrunners and then Marie Waite, known as 'Spanish Marie'—married with children.

What drives these women? Is it the thrill of the chase, the desire for adventure, or something deeper? Will they use their powers for good or evil, or will their paths blur in the gray areas of morality? Who will win the game?

Marie Waite is a real-life bootlegger. She facilitated a fleet of boats that moved illegal liquor between Miami, The Bahamas and Cuba. Named, Spanish Marie, she loved nothing better than being at the helm while bringing home the goods while escaping the Coast Guard. Marie deceives others with her false image.

Elizebeth Friedman, along with her husband, was a code breaker hired by the government to help bring down Marie.

Told from the perspectives of Elizebeth and Marie. Are they both heroes?

From the glamorous world of D.C. Intelligence to the sultry shores of the Straits of Florida, there is non-stop action, glamour, and suspense.

My thoughts...

Erika Robuck's skill shines through in her creation of two fascinating women, set against the backdrop of the Prohibition Era. Elizebeth, the lone woman in her field, grapples with the pressures of a male-dominated profession, while Marie, born into poverty, yearns for wealth. Both women are complex, intriguing, and multi-faceted, navigating a world that often underestimates them, much like the modern world of today.

We also see the compelling differences in the relationships (Elizebeth and William) compared to (Marie and Charlie).

THE LAST TWELVE MILES is a delight with a colorful cast of characters. Rich in character, the author's third novel using women protagonists as foils for each other is electrifying and engrossing. Each woman has to balance and compartmentalize their personal and professional life.

Richly woven and riveting! As a South Floridian, I enjoy books set in my area and the Keys. With strong takeaways from good versus evil, for better or worse, walking the line between darkness and light is a balancing act, and addiction can be deadly. It is all about how we use those powers.


Well done! I highly recommend it for fans of the author's war novels and Hemingway's Girl, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and those who enjoy well-researched, smartly written historical fiction and strong female protagonists. I enjoyed the Author's notes, references, reading group guide, and conversation with the Author.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for a gifted digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: June 4, 2024


"The Last Twelve Miles is a richly detailed portrait of two compelling women on opposite sides of the law. Set against the backdrop of the Prohibition Rum Wars, Robuck has brought two real-life figures to the page with heartfelt intimacy and crackling suspense. A fascinating read!"

― Chanel Cleeton, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Cuban Heiress

"What a fun and riveting ride! Erika Robuck has unearthed two real-life Prohibition-era heroines―one a savvy rumrunner, the other an ambitious codebreaker―and vividly recreated their adventures, including a tension-packed cat-and-mouse game that threatens to destroy them both. The Last Twelve Miles so immersed me in the wild and raucous world of the Roaring Twenties that I never wanted it to end?even as I furiously turned the pages to see what would happen next."

― Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park

"Danger and intrigue will come to a head as Elizebeth and Marie play a deadly game of cat and mouse along the Florida coast. Fans of Kate Quinn, strong female protagonists, and history-based storytelling will enjoy this read."

― Booklist

"The Last Twelve Miles is the thrilling story of two extraordinary women on opposite sides of the law, but with more in common than they think. Based on a true story, Elizebeth, a meticulous government codebreaker, hunts down Marie, the flamboyant rumrunner who makes and loses fortunes on the waters off the Florida Keys during Prohibition. Both the G-woman and the mobster are also wives and mothers struggling to thrive in men’s domains. A breezy and brutal glimpse into the world of Jazz Age gangsters from a fresh angle. Really enjoyable!"

― Anika Scott, internationally bestselling author of Sinners of Starlight City

"Move over Al Capone and Eliot Ness! It’s time to make space for Elizabeth Friedman and Marie Waite?a captivating pair of badass women on opposite sides of prohibition law. In her terrific new historical fiction, The Last Twelve Miles, Erika Robuck brings you Elizabeth, the brilliant cryptanalyst who breaks code for the U.S. Coast Guard, and Marie, the equally brilliant rumrunner who plies the waters off the coast of Florida. Never has there been a more fascinating set of rivals and you will find yourself torn over which of them you’d like to see win. Richly drawn characters, a crackerjack plot, and a setting that is equal parts glamorous and deadly make The Last Twelve Miles a must read for 2024."

― Deborah Goodrich Royce, nationally bestselling author of Reef Road

"In this gripping and devilishly exciting Prohibition-era novel, The Last Twelve Miles effortlessly tells the story of two real and brilliant women, one running illegal booze between Miami, the Bahamas and Cuba, and the other, a master codebreaker, hot on her trail. Robuck’s meticulous research and impeccable characterization shine through in this fierce, feminist and unforgettable novel."

― Nicola Harrison, author of Hotel Laguna

"Two women, a Coast Guard Special Agent and a bootlegger, face off against each other in this Prohibition-era novel. Their journeys of marriage, motherhood, and career intertwine in this fascinating story based on true events."

― Rae Ann Parker, Parnassus Books

About the Author

Photo by Nick Woodall

Erika Robuck is a national bestselling author of novels SISTERS OF NIGHT AND FOG (2022), THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (2021), THE HOUSE OF HAWTHORNE (2015), FALLEN BEAUTY (2014), CALL ME ZELDA (2013), HEMINGWAY’S GIRL (2012), and RECEIVE ME FALLING (2009.) She is a contributor to the anthology GRAND CENTRAL: POSTWAR STORIES OF LOVE AND REUNION (2014), and to the Writer’s Digest Essay Collection, AUTHOR IN PROGRESS (2016.)

A former teacher, Erika was named Annapolis’ Author of the Year, and she resides there with her husband and three sons. WEBSITE







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