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. Read more...
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-11-18
- Reviewer: Staff
Harris (Fatherland) provides easily the best fictional treatment of the Dreyfus Affair yet, in this gripping thriller told from the vantage point of French army officer Georges Picquart. Major Picquart is present on the day in 1895 that Alfred Dreyfus is publicly degraded as a traitor to his country, before his exile to Devil’s Island. Soon afterward, Picquart is promoted to colonel, to assume command of the Statistical Section, which is actually the army’s espionage unit. Picquart comes across evidence of another traitor spying for the Germans, and his investigation uncovers something unsettling: the handwriting of the spy, Walsin Esterhazy, is a perfect match for the writing on the letters that the French government claimed were from Dreyfus. Furthermore, review of the classified evidence against the exile reveals nothing of substance. Picquart pursues the truth, at personal and professional risk, in the face of superiors eager to preserve the official version of events. Harris perfectly captures the rampant anti-Semitism that led to Dreyfus’s scapegoating, and effectively uses the present tense to lend intimacy to the narrative. First printing of 100,000. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (Jan.)