An Officer and a Spy
By Robert Harris
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385349581, 448pp.)
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
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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.
Robert Harris is the author of eight best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, and The Fear Index. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, which was directed by Roman Polanski. Harris’s work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, West Berkshire, with his wife, Gill Hornby.
British National Book Awards—Popular Fiction Book of the Year
Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
“Outstanding . . . Finds its chilling thrills in the unlikeliest of places.” —USA Today
“[A] superb historical thriller. . . . Thick with scenes of code-breaking, covert surveillance, hairsbreadth escapes and violent death.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Harris has, with this novel, taken [Le Carré’s] place as the master of making documents and scraps of paper, the details of painstaking intelligence work, into drama. ” —The Daily Beast
“[Harris] outdoes himself. The period details are pitch-perfect . . . and the action pulses with intensity.” —The Miami Herald
“A gripping tale.” —The New York Times
“Mesmerizing. . . . The Dreyfus affair remains astonishing, and this exceptional piece of popular fiction does it justice.”
—The Washington Post
“A thrilling page-turner. . . . Thick with espionage, daring and cruel turns of fate.”
—New York Daily News
“A crisp, fast-paced drama. . . . From one of the great scandals of the late 19th century, Harris has written a novel which is true to the facts, scrupulously so, but reads like a combination of Le Carré at his best and Conan Doyle writing about Sherlock Holmes.”
—The Daily Beast
“Robert Harris’s novel speaks to our times in its examination of the potential dangers of military intelligence.”
“A compelling narrative of state corruption. . . . While finely attuned to modern resonances of surveillance, cultural identity and patriotic loyalty, Harris stays true to the atmosphere and morals of the period.”
—The Guardian (UK)
“A master storyteller at the top of his game. . . . The echoes of our own time are deafening. But Harris is far too smart to labor the point. He just drives his story forward, marshalling his cast of fools and knaves, soldiers and spies, dodgy handwriting experts and discreet mistresses, to superlative effect.”
—Mail on Sunday (UK)
“Claustrophobically gripping. . . . Written in elegant prose reminiscent of the 19th-century historical novel, but its form is a hybrid of the contemporary thriller, the spy novella and the courtroom drama. It is persuasive and engaging on all of these levels, while providing a unique and fresh reading of the Dreyfus affair.”
—The Irish Times
“Instantly absorbing. . . . Great for fans of Ken Follett, John le Carré, Louis Bayard, Caleb Carr, and Martin Cruz Smith.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Easily the best fictional treatment of the Dreyfus Affair. . . . Harris perfectly captures the rampant anti-Semitism that led to Dreyfus’s scapegoating.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Espionage, counterespionage, a scandalous trial, a cover-up, and a man who tries to do right make this a complex and alluring thriller.”