Title:
An Officer and a Spy
By:
Robert Harris
Pages:
429
Rating:
4

Robert Harris returns to the thrilling historical fiction he has so brilliantly made his own. This is the story of the infamous Dreyfus affair told as a chillingly dark, hard-edged novel of conspiracy and espionage.

Paris in 1895. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of twenty-thousand. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, the ambitious, intellectual, recently promoted head of the counterespionage agency that “proved” Dreyfus had passed secrets to the Germans. At first, Picquart firmly believes in Dreyfus’s guilt. But it is not long after Dreyfus is delivered to his desolate prison that Picquart stumbles on information that leads him to suspect that there is still a spy at large in the French military. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself.

Bringing to life the scandal that mesmerized the world at the turn of the twentieth century, Robert Harris tells a tale of uncanny timeliness––a witch hunt, secret tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, the fate of a whistle-blower–richly dramatized with the singular storytelling mastery that has marked all of his internationally best-selling novels.

An Officer and a Spy book cover

Though of course based on a very powerful politico-historical event, I wasn’t as familiar with the affair as I perhaps should have been. In fact, I don’t recall it being mentioned in any of my formal education; only my interest in the services really brought it into focus to begin with. Despite that, it wasn’t an area I’d explored in any depth.

This was a vivid telling. Although occasionally the narrator is almost too Human and mundaine and you wonder where things are going, it’s a gripping story, more so because we know just how real the outcome is and in that light, his Humanity is surely to be applauded. It’s an interesting interpretation of a long-ago France, and I’m very glad I picked it up. Thanks, Rebecca!

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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