by Joyce McClurg)
What should you read this weekend? USA TODAY's picks for book lovers include Robert Harris' new novel about the Dreyfus Affair, and the first of a dystopian sci-fi trilogy.
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris, Knopf; fiction; 448 pp.
Robert Harris' new espionage novel finds its chilling thrills in the unlikeliest of places – the notorious Dreyfus Affair that gripped France from 1894-1906.
Harris' clever device is to have the tale told as a first-person "secret account" by French officer Georges Picquart, a real-life central figure who at first is convinced of Alfred Dreyfus' guilt in passing military secrets to the Germans.
Picquart is promoted to head the army's secret intelligence section, and charged with continuing to investigate Dreyfus' motive after he's imprisoned. (To many in the army and in France, the fact that Dreyfus is Jewish is all the proof and motive that's needed.)
Picquart begins asking questions and looking at dubious evidence, soon concluding that it was another officer who committed treason.
What follows is a web of army conspiracies, cover-ups, lies and forgeries.
USA TODAY says **** out of four. "Outstanding … An Officer and a Spy is historical fiction that matters."
Red Rising by Pierce Brown; Del Rey, 400 pp.; fiction
A young revolutionary leader is born in this first book in a new trilogy marrying the Occupy Movement, The Lord of the Flies and a really serious game of Risk.
USA TODAY says ***½. "Top-notch … Brown's futuristic sci-fi world doesn't seem too far off from our own society with its haves and have-nots."
The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer; Random House, 592 pp.; non-fiction
Looks at the rise of fascism through the prism of the relationship between Il Duce and Pope Pius XI, both of whom came to power in 1922.
USA TODAY says ****. A "vividly recounted history … a tragic story."
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen; Random House, 252 pp.; fiction
A famous feminist photographer running short of money moves to the country and meets a younger man.
USA TODAY says ***½ out of four. "Still Life is a charming read ... smooth and comforting about the vulnerabilities of growing older."
Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage by Will Swift; Threshold Editions; 496 pp.; non-fiction
Will Swift draws on love letters and other correspondence not available to earlier biographers to paint a portrait of the Nixons' marriage.
USA TODAY says ***. "The distance from Watergate — and access to new personal documents — gives Pat and Dick a freshness to a much-considered chapter of history."
Contributing reviewers: Jocelyn McClurg, Brian Truitt, Matt Damsker, Patty Rhule, Aamer Madhani