An Officer and a Spy – Book Review

Robert Harris is one of my favourite authors. His genres are thrillers and historical fiction and although the subject matter varies, his books are always consistently good. This is no exception. An Officer and a Spy is both a thriller and historical fiction dealing with the Dreyfus Affair. This is the real case of 1890s Jewish French army officer wrongly accused of spying and sentenced to life with solitary confinement on Devils Island. Although I knew how the story ends it was still gripping reading.

The tale is told from the point of view of Colonel Picquart who is involved in Dreyfus’ arrest then asked to head army intelligence. At first Picquart is convinced of Dreyfus’ guilt then gradually uncovers evidence pointing to his innocence. Picquart is blocked by the army top brass who don’t want to admit they’ve made a mistake. Later it emerges that Dreyfus has been framed on orders from the very top. The book describes both army and Paris salon life in the 1890s. In due course Picquart is himself in some danger and has to make moral choices.

My only criticism is that the final part of the book is a series of courtroom dramas and could have been shortened by a hundred pages or so. Four and a half stars but if I have to choose between four and five, I’ll give it five.

 

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