Monday, December 22, 2014

"The author here has achieved a worthy feat: making an historical incident about which we think we already know more than enough into a legitimate thriller." ~Eric B.

Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction

A whistle-blower. A witch hunt. A cover-up. Secret tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, and government corruption. Welcome to 1890s Paris.

Alfred Dreyfus has been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment on a far-off island, and publicly stripped of his rank. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, an ambitious military officer who believes in Dreyfus's guilt as staunchly as any member of the public. But when he is promoted to head of the French counter-espionage agency, Picquart finds evidence that a spy still remains at large in the military—indicating that Dreyfus is innocent. 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. 

Eric B. says: 
"The author here has achieved a worthy feat: making an historical incident about which we think we already know more than enough into a legitimate thriller. After having read the acknowledgements to the book, I’m confident that the events portrayed are as close to the real truth as possible within the framework of a novel. I have maintained for years that more can be learned from honest fiction than from other sources, no matter the sincerity and scrupulousness with which they are produced.

The matter of the degradation, and that is the precise term formally used in this instance, of the French Army Officer Alfred Dreyfuss has been the subject of many books of both fiction and nonfiction (as well as a fairly famous cinema adaptation), by authors from many countries. It may be because of the blatantly self-serving and shamelessly political motives of the prosecution, but also because of the heroic efforts to bring the truth to light.

The protagonist and narrator of this tale is Marie-George Picqualt, a young officer collaterally connected to the original trial of the famous alleged traitor who becomes the most strident and dedicated disciple of proving his innocence and the perfidy of the French Army’s general command in the slipshod investigation prosecution and subsequent covering-up of the infamous incident. The narrative follows Picqualt's discovery that Dreyfus was railroaded and the identity of the actual traitor in a detailed manner that supplies all the specific information the reader needs to understand clearly the truth of the story. One's admiration for the profoundly moral Picqualt and his ceaseless struggle to exonerate the innocent, bring the guilty to justice and with it all refrain from revealing state secrets grows with each page. At great cost to himself and risking the ruination of his life, he pursues every available path.

A genuine thriller, surprising since we know exactly where it's all going, this keeps the reader's attention in a masterful way. Any reader of historical fiction will enjoy this, and maybe some of those who love action-adventure stuff, too.

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