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An Officer and a Spy Paperback – 8 May 2014

1,438 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (8 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099580888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099580881
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,438 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Harris is the author Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium and The Ghost - all of which were worldwide bestsellers. His work has been translated into thirty-three languages. He was born in Nottingham in 1957 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He worked as a reporter on the BBC's Newsnight and Panorama programmes, before becoming Political Editor of the Observer in 1987, and then a columnist on the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph. In 2003 he was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards. He lives near Hungerford in Berkshire with his wife and their four children.

Product Description


"The fact that this novel is seriously riveting is a testament to Robert Harris's storytelling power; he conjures knuckle-blanching suspense from a very well-known piece of history." (BOOKS OF THE YEAR The Times)

"Harris’ retelling of the Dreyfus case is as taut and exciting as anything by Forsyth or Follet." (BOOKS OF THE YEAR Guardian)

"Menace and suspense twist tight in a narrative of tremendous tension." (BOOKS OF THE YEAR Sunday Times)

"Superb . . . Harris demonstrates his unique ability to recreate historical events and turn them into spellbinding thriller . . . Written with scalpel-like precision and the elegance we expect of Harris, there is a passion here that justifies calling it a masterpiece." (BOOKS OF THE YEAR Daily Mail)

"A brilliant retelling of a scandal that became one of the most famous miscarriages of justice . . . the most gripping book I've read this year." (BOOKS OF THE YEAR Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

IN THE HUNT FOR A SPY, HE EXPOSED A CONSPIRACY. The winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2014, this is a gripping historical thriller from Robert Harris – Sunday Times bestselling author of Fatherland and The Ghost.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

189 of 200 people found the following review helpful By Dr David Mankin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have long been a fan of Robert Harris and was pleased to be given this novel as a birthday present. I devoured it in a couple of (longish) sittings. I recall studying the Dreyfus affair at school but these were hazy recollections at best. Having read the novel I am now seeking out a good non-fiction book on the topic so that I have a better appreciation of how well Robert Harris has integrated fact with fiction. The novel is revelatory in terms of demonstrating through fiction the lengths governments will go to in order to conceal the truth. Dreyfus was, to put it succintly, fitted up. As the author has shown in previous novels he is adept at (a) evoking a period setting, (b) creating well rounded characters like the central protaganist here, Colonel Georges Picquar, through whose eyes the story unfolds, and (c) making political machinations seem totally believable (and you only have to look at some of the more recent political scandals in the UK to draw certain parallels to those in this novel). The author's prose style is as fluent as ever, plotting is handled superbly, and the whole story rattles along. What really shines through the fiction is the author's obvious fascination with this famous French scandal. Highly recommended.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Helpful Advice on 21 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
“An Officer and a Spy” written by Robert Harris who attracted worldwide public attention with his novel ‘Fatherland’, is a great historical fiction, which tells the less known story of Dreyfus affair that at the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th century divided France and led it to the brink of civil war.

The novel main character Georges Picquart works in French Army Statistical Section, he’s smart recently promoted leader of the counterespionage intelligence unit responsible for Dreyfus exposure as German spy that organized his trial. Alfred Dreyfus was a young Jewish officer, who due to treason conviction was sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island, while his rank was humiliatingly taken away from him in front of mob crowd of twenty thousand persons which shouted “Death to the Jew!”

Georges Picquart will begin to explore some clues that have emerged in this case, recognizing from the start that things are not exactly like they were presented by government and that obviously something or someone else is behind the accusations that Dreyfus was exposed to and due to which his life was ruined. He will start suspecting that there is still a spy in the French military and that wrong man was accused.

The story is incredibly realistic and reader will many times ask herself/himself if all those things could really happen to this unfortunate man, but to the novel main character as well, who only tries to get to the truth.
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75 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Cornwallgurl on 26 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I have always enjoyed Robert Harris's books immensely, although I did feel he had "gone off the boil" a bit with his later ones. I did not particularly enjoy the two Roman ones, and felt that both The Ghost and The Fear Index were inferior to his earlier, cracking thrillers based around real events. My husband pre-ordered this book and read it obssessively on holiday, and I snatched it from him the minute he'd finished it.

We'd both read the various reviews, which served to act as a reminder about the politics and progression of L'Affaire Dreyfus - like most reviewers, we had a reasonable idea of the episode in outline, rather than the detail. One thing I was unaware of was quite how long it dragged on and how the French General Staff perpetrated almost any untruths rather than admit they were wrong. It did seem to resonate with some current affairs, but it was truly anchored in the late 19th Century, and did not attempt to view it in the light of the 21st. It was still breathtaking in its outrage, however and totally absorbing. The huge cast of characters were so well defined and described and the appalling dirty tricks were as thrilling as any fiction - and at times almost more extreme than could reasonably be imagined. The fact that Dreyfus was not a particularly likeable character, and his defendant Picquart admitted to not caring for him personally, made it all the more astonishing that Picquart was prepared to risk his career in his cause.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lady Dido on 4 Sept. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What an excellent work. There is nothing more satisfying than reading a book that is well written, thoroughly researched and based on fact. Oh the joy of being entertained, challenged and educated at the same time! This is the first book that I have read by Robert Harris and I have already downloaded his first and best-known work, Fatherland.

I loved the style of writing in An Officer and a Spy. It was descriptive, but only as far as was necessary to set the scene and flesh out the characters. I knew little about the Drefus scandal before starting, and deliberately waited until I had finished the book before researching it further. I now feel pretty well-versed in a key part of French modern history.

Whilst the author, quite rightly, gave a good account of all the terrible illegal actions of the military in trying to cover-up their incompetence, there was nevertheless an underlying lurking sense of understanding as lie upon lie of French officers was revealed in a mad effort to finally sweep the last piece of dirt under the carpet. Of course, this couldn't happen - although the extent to which they nearly pulled it off was truly shocking.

My only reason for dropping one star from my rating was a slight disappointment that almost the entire book dwelt on the failure to find justice. The final victory and restoration of the wronged characters was almost glossed over in the closing chapter, despite the fact that in the end - and after a disgraceful passage of time - the innocent players were properly recognised, exonerated and rewarded. I would have loved to feel a greater sense of justice and victory as I closed the book.

Having said that - it was superb and I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good writing, history and a fascinating story.
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