An Officer and a Spy

by Robert Harris

A gripping novel based (closely, as far as I can determine) on the story of Colonel Georges Picquart’s quest for justice in the ‘Dreyfus affair’.  The story is narrated in the present tense by Picquart, and brings to life not only the well-documented facts of the original Dreyfus court martial and subsequent court cases, but also the personalities involved and the range of emotional states the Picquart goes through as the story unfolds.

I have only read one other book by Harris, Lustrum, which was proposed by one of our book group members and which I also found an enthralling read.  Harris appears to research his subjects thoroughly and has a very good feel for the eternal truths of politics and the power struggle.  Whether writing about Ancient Rome or late nineteenth century France, he is able to get under the skin of his characters and show what makes them tick – whether the character is one for whom we are expected to feel sympathy, or not.