C. J. Sansomís Winter in Madrid is a period novel set in the latter years of 1930s to 1947 in Francoís Spain. Three men, who had attended prestigious Rookwood School in Great Britain and had become childhood friends, proceeded along divergent roads as adults.
Bernie Piper became a Communist and fought in the Spanish Civil War that broke out in 1936. During the war, he was reported missing and presumed dead. At the request of his parents, his friend Harry Brett traveled to Spain seeking information. The Russians, then in control, thought he was a spy and gave Harry 24 hours to leave the country. The Civil War ended in 1939.
Shortly thereafter, Harry, with great reluctance, was recruited by the Secret Service and sent to the British Embassy in Spain as a translator to spy on a third Rookwood alumni, Sandy Forsyth. Forsyth had become a Madrid businessman who was under intense scrutiny by the British for his shady practices and association with Franco.
Add to the mix Sandyís girlfriend, Barbara Clare. She had fallen in love with Bernie when she was a Red Cross nurse during the civil war, but now lived with Sandy. She was intent on finding out whether or not Bernie was still alive and if so, where he was held.
After an intriguing prologue, Winter in Madrid seems to lag until about mid-way through the novel when the story picks back up again. The novel finishes with a stunning and unexpected ending.
The story is told from varying points of view that at times can be a little distracting. However, the main characters have the necessary depth to support their motivations and carry the story forward. All characters are provided ample opportunities to play their respective role in history.
The author ably paints a vivid portrait of post-civil war Spain; the grit, the devastation, the muddled politics.
Mr. Sansom seems well prepared in the necessary historical detail of the time to write such a strong, sweeping, political thriller. History buffs are sure to appreciate his intensive research. Part historical novel, part romance, part thriller, Winter in Madrid provides a thought-provoking look at a troubled time in Spanish history.