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An Officer and a Spy

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  23,019 ratings  ·  2,441 reviews
They lied to protect their country. He told the truth to save it. A gripping historical thriller from the bestselling author of FATHERLAND.

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!'
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published September 26th 2013 by Hutchinson
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Nancy Thormann This is my fourth Robert Harris book and this is the best so far. That's not to say that the others were not good. He writes well regardless of the su…moreThis is my fourth Robert Harris book and this is the best so far. That's not to say that the others were not good. He writes well regardless of the subject he chooses.(less)
Meta The name was major Picquart. I am Dutch and learned French at school. Yes there were many names, but Picquart was the most important person.
It is wor…more
The name was major Picquart. I am Dutch and learned French at school. Yes there were many names, but Picquart was the most important person.
It is worthwhile to read this book twice. I want to read it also another time.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
”There is no such thing as a secret--not really, not in the modern world, not with photography and telegraphy and railways and newspaper presses. The old days of an inner circle of like-minded souls communicating with parchment and quill pens are gone. Sooner or later most things will be revealed.”

 photo mugshots_alfred-dreyfus_zps80c4bb01.jpg
Captain Alfred Dreyfus’s mugshot

Georges Picquart was as convinced of Captain Alfred Dreyfus’s guilt as anyone else in 1894. In fact for the invaluable service he provided during the affair he becom
4.5 stars

"There are occasions when losing is a victory, so long as there is a fight."

This is an excellent work of historical fiction based on a real-life man of honor and duty, French Army officer Georges Picquart, and his determination to uncover the truth surrounding the arrest and conviction of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in what is considered to be one of the greatest judicial debacles in history. While France was still stunned by the victory of the Germans in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, ho
Who should read this book?

- All who love spy novels
- All who love mysteries and thrillers
- All who are interested in the Dreyfus affair
- All who are interested in issues concerning anti-Semitism
- All who enjoy GOOD historical fiction
- All who would enjoy a book set in Paris in the 1890s
- All interested in Émile Zola or his essay J'accuse !
- All who want books that deliver historical facts in an engaging manner
- All who need a book that focuses on people that are willing to place themselves in
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Incredible. Just brilliant.

I would not hesitate to call An Officer and a Spy a masterpiece. My love for history, spies and conspiracies have without a doubt, placed this book in my favorites shelf. It was so gripping and I was so engrossed that I lost track of time, forgot that I'd planned to go for my jog and ended up emotional eating a bag of chips instead!

A retelling of the Dreyfus affair (I wouldn't recommend clicking on the link if you don't want this book to be spoiled for you but if you a
Andrew Smith
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-politics
In 1898 the French newspaper L’Aurore printed an open letter from writer Emile Zola. Under the banner headline ’J’accuse…!’, Zola accused the government of anti-Semitism and the unlawful jailing of French Army officer Alfred Dreyfus. The letter caused a huge a uproar, as Zola pointed out the serious errors in the case against Dreyfus – who had been packed off to the notorious Devil’s Island in French Guyana - and a lack of serious evidence to back up the charges.

The Dreyfus Affair, as it became
switterbug (Betsey)
Like many people, I am aware of the Dreyfus affair that took place in France in the late 19th century, but my knowledge was mostly peripheral. I knew that Alfred Dreyfus was a French soldier who was accused of spying on France for the Germans. I was born and raised Jewish, so it was also part of my heritage to recognize the persecuted Jews of the past. Harris’s novel awakened my understanding of the political and social climate of that period in history, and informed me of how this colossal misc ...more
I loved this audiobook. One of the best historical fiction spy thrillers I've read in a long time.

Highly recommend.

5 out of 5 stars.
Robert Harris isn't an author I have read before, but I decided to read this on the recommendation of a family member whose opinions I value. I enjoyed it immensely. Basically this is a fictionalized re-telling of the course of the Dreyfus Affair, from the perspective of Col. Georges Picquart, the intelligence officer who originally blew the case open. I knew about the Dreyfus Affair in outline before reading this, but I knew nothing of the detail. As a result this read like a thriller novel to ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before reading this book I'd had a vague idea of a so-called Dreyfuss affair. After reading it, I was full of respect for Dreyfuss who showed stamina during the trial and even more for his ability to survive his isolation. Robert Harris did a wonderful job. ...more
Jan Rice
I heard the whip crack twice. The driver shouted a command. The wagon accelerated free of the mob, turned left, and disappeared.

An instant later the order was given for the parade to march past. The stamp of boots seemed to shake the ground. Bugles were blown. Drums beat time. As the band struck up "Sambre-et-Meuse" it started to snow. I felt a great sense of release. I believe we all did. Spontaneously we turned to one another and shook hands. It was as if a healthy body had purged itself of
Dolf Patijn
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Robert Harris has done it again. He has written a historical novel that dragged me in so deep that it made me feel uncomfortable as if I was the protagonist. Nail-biting stuff. This time the book is about the Dreyfus affair, a real historic event that took place in between 1894 and 1906.

The story is told by Colonel Georges Picquart, who becomes head of counter-espionage and finds out that there is something really fishy about the whole affair.

This affair had the whole country (France) devided at
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Classic Robert Harris - brilliant historical fiction based on the infamous 'Dreyfus affair'. This is Harris at his finest, a gripping fictionalised account of a fascinating true story. Harris brings history to life like no other. Accessible yet intelligent, popular not patronising. Compelling, evocative and thought provoking. ...more
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in post 1870 France, spying, history & historical fiction and
Shelves: fiction, favorites
A very enjoyable, keenly researched and fast paced historical account of the Dreyfus affair that shook France and transfixed Europe in the final years of the 19th Century.

Mr Harris transports the reader to 1894 and the trial of Alfred Dreyfus who is accused if passing secrets to the Germans. From there the story develops around Georges Picquart, a career soldier on a fast track to high command, as he takes up his position to run the intelligence unit that was responsible for unmasking Dreyfus a
An Officer and a Spy is an outstanding historical fiction/ thriller. It provides a historically accurate account of the Dreyfus Affair, the espionage case that ripped apart fin de siecle France. Author Robert Harris selected Lieutenant Colonel George Piquart as his protagonist and chronicled the events which led to his altering his belief in Alfred Dreyfus' guilt.

On October 15, 1894, 35-year-old Alfred Dreyfus, an artillery officer in the French army, was arrested for high treason, spying, and
Tim The Enchanter
A Literary Lawyer winner of a 2015 Gavel Award for

* Best Historical Fiction

My #4 Best Read for 2014

An Intriguing Look into Historical Scandal 5 Stars

Robert Harris has written an intriguing thriller chronicling what is know as the Dreyfus affair. I don't blame you if you know nothing of this event as it was unknown to me when I open the novel. Fans of political thriller, historical fiction and history should find this to be a perfect mesh of genres. While I remain unable to separate the
Robert Harris’s 2014 thriller takes on one of the most famous miscarriages of justice, the Dreyfus Case. While the general lines of the case are known – Jewish officer wrongfully accused of treason and the subsequent cover-up by the army – Harris describes details that are certainly unknown to most people.

The Dreyfus case should be seen as a prime example of how widespread and acceptable anti-Semitism was in 19th century Europe. Despite the protests that later erupted the fact is that the fanat
Sam Quixote
At the end of the 19th century France was consumed by an incident called The Dreyfus Affair where a man called Alfred Dreyfus was caught allegedly giving French military secrets to Germany. Robert Harris’ An Officer and a Spy, which is set directly in the aftermath of Dreyfus’ conviction, revisits the affair from the perspective of Georges Picquart, the newly appointed spymaster of French Intelligence, who discovers not only that Dreyfus was innocent but that there was a massive conspiracy behin ...more
I am a big fan of Robert Harris and this book did not let me down. Harris is a master of historical fiction.

This historical fiction tells the story of French officer Georges Picquart (1854-1914) from 1896 to 1906. Picquart became head of the French Army’s Intelligence section after the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) and his confinement on Devil’s Island. Picquart uncovers a spy and proof of Dreyfus’s innocents. Picquart has to fight bureaucracy, societal opposition as well as anti-Semi
Lewis Weinstein
An outstanding historical novel, recreating the Dreyfus affair in a way that raised my fury ... at disgusting official misconduct and coverup ... and at blatant antisemitism. Dreyfus himself is portrayed as a very flat and generally unlikable person, who was unlucky to be charged in the first place and then extremely fortunate that men like Picquart, Zola and Clemenceau cared about justice and the real honor of France.
Mike (the Paladin)
This book happens to be about a subject I was already interested in. This is a fictionalized account of what is generally called the Dreyfus affair. Beginning in 1894 and continuing through 1906 Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned on Devil's Island. (Devil's Island was closed so Dreyfus was held alone.) Through the efforts of a relentless investigator and with the help of writer Émile Zola the truth finally came out.

The book is told from the view point of Georges Picquart
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

I've only read two other Robert Harris novels: Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome, which I liked a lot and Enigma which I didn't like very much at all. So I didn't start this novel with any degree of confidence that it would appeal to me.

Like many others, I was familiar with only the bare bones of the Dreyfus Affair:

(a) Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French army officer, was convicted of selling information to the Germans.

(b) He was imprisoned on the notorious Devil's Island, but was ultimately exho
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sara by: Candi
I wonder if there is anything more frightening than the misuse of great power against someone who is helpless to defend himself. If you have even been close to such a circumstance, it is harrowing. To have it done to you on such a great scale as experienced by Alfred Dreyfus is almost unthinkable. Add in a generous sprinkling of antisemitism, and you have more than the persecution of an individual, you have the precursor of things to come. For that reason, The Dreyfus Affair, as this episode of ...more
Dan Lutts
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Officer and a Spy is about the Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906) which roiled French society, encouraged anti-Semitism, and fostered radicalism. The affair began when a military court convicted Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was Jewish, of spying for the Germans and sentenced him to solitary life imprisonment on Devil’s island. It turned out that Dreyfus was innocent but the top military brass refused to reopen the case because being wrong would put them in a bad light. Instead, they allowed the real s ...more
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Harris has written a masterful tale of the case that shook the foundations of late 19th century French Society – the Dreyfus affair. Surprisingly Dreyfus himself, in spite of being always in the background is a rather minor character in this novel. Mr. Harris has chosen to tell his story through the eyes of the man who uncovered the plot to have Capt Dreyfus scapegoated in a spy scandal involving France’s mortal enemy - Germany, LTC Georges Picquart.

The novel opens with the Picquart watching
David Ebsworth
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I’ve read in the past year by a long head. It’s very rare for me to say “I couldn’t put this down” though, in this case, I literally finished it in two long sittings.

‘Major Picquart to see the Minister of War...’ The sentry on the rue Saint-Dominique steps out of his box to open the gate and I run through a whirl of snow across the windy courtyard into the warm lobby of the hôtel de Brienne, where a sleek young captain of the Republican Guards rises to salute me. I
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Truth is stranger than fiction. That’s the lesson to take from Robert Harris’ masterful An Officer and a Spy. It is a skillfully-crafted novelization of the Dreyfus Affair, which paralyzed France for about ten years at the turn of the twentieth century. Harris relied on the facts of the case to build his novel of espionage, deceit, bigotry and state-sanctioned misdeeds. He wrote in an author’s note: “None of the characters…not even the most minor, is wholly fictional.” He dexterously wove a supe ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Engrossing tale of the Dreyfus Affair told from the point of view of Georges Picquart - an up and coming army officer who for his initial assistance with the enquiry and trial of Dreyfus is promoted to head of the Intelligence Division only to discover that the true traitor was instead Estherhazy and that Dreyfus was wrongly convicted. To his surprise and then horror, and despite his investigations being initially encouraged, the more it becomes clear that Dreyfus has been wrongly convicted the ...more
George Picquart is elevated to command France's counterespionage and it seems like a rise in his career until he learns he is partly there to make sure Alfred Dreyfus was guilty of selling secrets to the enemy.

Certainly Dreyfus seems like a likely candidate as he seems to have more money than he should have and also that he was from the contested lands of France and Germany and was raised there during German control but as Picquart digs into things he discovers Dreyfus may not be guilty and furt
There have been many recommendations given to me to read this gripping and tautly written historical thriller to date. It has all of the markers that I look for in this genre. There is an intriguing and convoluted plot. Engaging and well developed characters that a reader can empathize with and a wonderful sense of time and place.

Many thanks to my fellow thriller lovers who have urged me to read this novel, very glad that I followed their recommendation.
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As fan of Robert Harris' Cicero books, I was excited to see this new tome in the bookstores. Harris does historical fiction so well, and An Officer and A Spy is no exception.
We are transported to late 19th century Paris, where a Jewish military officer has just been convicted of treason. George Picquart, a former colleague, though not a friend of the sentenced man mistrusts the verdict and begins an investigation, which becomes all encompassing, as well as very dangerous. I won't say much more o
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Changing my reading behaviour 3 18 Oct 07, 2018 05:53AM  
50 books to read ...: a gripping book 3 34 Jun 27, 2018 02:22PM  
21st Century Lite...: An Officer and a Spy - Part One, Some Spoilers (April 2017) 4 16 Apr 17, 2017 07:06PM  
2017 Reading Chal...: The Dreyfus Affair 1 21 May 18, 2015 07:35AM  

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ROBERT HARRIS is the author of nine best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his ...more

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