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From the bestselling author of Fatherland, a gripping historical thriller in which the hunter becomes the hunted.
January 1895. On a freezing morning in the heart of Paris, an army officer, Georges Picquart, witnesses a convicted spy, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, being publicly humiliated in front of twenty thousand spectators baying ‘Death to the Jew!'
The officer is rewarded with promotion: Picquart is made the French army's youngest colonel and put in command of ‘the Statistical Section' – the shadowy intelligence unit that tracked down Dreyfus.
The spy, meanwhile, is given a punishment of medieval cruelty: Dreyfus is shipped off to a lifetime of solitary confinement on Devil's Island – unable to speak to anyone, not even his guards, his case seems closed forever.
But gradually Picquart comes to believe there is something rotten at the heart of the Statistical Section. When he discovers another German spy operating on French soil, his superiors are oddly reluctant to pursue it. Despite official warnings, Picquart persists, and soon the officer and the spy are in the same predicament…
Narrated by Picquart, An Officer and a Spy is a compelling recreation of a scandal that became the most famous miscarriage of justice in history. Compelling, too, are the echoes for our modern world: an intelligence agency gone rogue, justice corrupted in the name of national security, a newspaper witch-hunt of a persecuted minority, and the age-old instinct of those in power to cover-up their crimes.
Read Caroline Baum Review
I love a book that does two things at once: teach you history and entertain you with a gripping story of espionage. Master spy storyteller Harris got the idea for this revisiting of the Dreyfus scandal from a conversation with Roman Polanski. His extensive research of historical sources has trawled through the original case: in 1894 French society was ripped in two over the fate of a Jewish captain accused of betraying national secrets to the Germans and famously championed by Emile Zola in his 'J'accuse' speech. Families were divided and the national conversation rose to a level of hysteria prompting unrest and political destabilisation until the matter was finally settled in 1906.
With paranoia about intelligence a feverish topic today, the choice and timing of Harris' latest could not be more perfect. You can't help but think of Wikileaks and Ed Snowden while reading this true story of one of the most grotesque examples of a miscarriage of justice in modern history and the shameful cover-up that attempted to conceal its rotten core of prejudice.
An important story given new vigour in the hands of a master of intrigue. He has, apparently, also written a film version for Polanski to direct.
About the Author
Robert Harris is the author of eight bestselling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost, Lustrum and The Fear Index. Several of his books have been filmed, most recently The Ghost, which was directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, west Berkshire, with his wife Gill Hornby and a fluctuating number of children.
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Comments about An Officer and a Spy:
Comments about An Officer and a Spy:
Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish French army officer tragically and totally falsely found guilty of betraying secrets to the German army prior to World War I. He suffered gross humiliation and was sentenced for life in solitary confinement in a tiny French colonial tropical island located just north of the South American continent.
The motives for this fabrication were primarily anti-semitic and nationalistic. The author has used the well documented facts of the fabrication and resurrection of Dreyfus as a spellbinding novel culminating in the famous newspaper headline by Emile Zola "J'Accuse". Zola also ended up in jail.
I have been able to read for nearly 8 decades and this is perhaps one of my best reading experiences.
It is of considerable interest that the Dreyfus family continues to produce high achievers including the American actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld TV fame and more recently the movie Enough Said. Very good genes!
"Many readers prize him as our supreme exponent of the "literary" thriller. His novels are not difficult -- they are whizzing page-turners... They also combine masterly suspense and mystery with historical insight and political shrewdness. His latest novel is no exception: it is a cracking read from start to finish... It offers a bravura display of Harris's fictional skills. The first is sureness of historical touch. In both general and specific terms the period comes alive... There is no need to wait for the film: it can scarcely be more exciting than the book." --"Sunday Times""Harris is committed to the belief that you can get at a truth as a novelist that you can't as an historian... and he does give us the look, sensations, sounds and smells as no historian could... it is informative, accomplished and highly enjoyable." --"Evening Standard""The Dreyfus Affair... has now been brilliantly retold by Robert Harris... This is a book about spies and their deceits and the unreasonable demands that are made of them by their hard-to-please political governors. It is 1895 with a strong undercurrent of 2003... The real subject then is espionage and the broader, mutually manipulative relationship between the intelligence "community" and the political class... Along the way, Harris gives us plenty of espionage tradecraft. The eavesdropping, the handwriting analysis, the forgery." --"The Times"
Number Of Pages: 496
Published: 1st October 2013
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3 x 3.7
Weight (kg): 0.73