Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom
Harry is an ex- public school boy and traumatized World War I veteran who has been recruited as a reluctant spy by The British Secret Services. They intend to make use of Harry’s schoolboy friendship with Sandy Forsyth, now a ruthless businessman working in and around Madrid. Harry’s language skills are to be used as a cover for his work as a translator while his real mission is to spy on Forsyth, gaining his trust and access to his business dealings.
This novel is a not so far-fetched eye-opening introduction to the abhorrent cruelties and deprivations that post civil war Spain had to survive as General Franco played things cool while deciding whether to join the war or keep Spain neutral. The city is full of hungry and fearful citizens as violence rules. Its people are in fear of their lives and trust no one, the Civil Guards rule, and the people keep off the streets as much as possible.
This is the Madrid that Harry encounters as he leaves the bombings in London to find the suspicions and wariness of Madrid. Harry has to make contact with Forsyth, and learn to survive and lie in the alien world of the black market and political alliances.
Harry is the original nice guy who has to learn to toughen up in many ways. He finds love, renews old friendships and is far from sorry when he’s allowed to leave Spain.
This book kept me turning the pages, I enjoyed its action-packed tale while learning more about the abhorrence of those times. Some of the years after the war and under Franco’s regime were worse than the years of the war itself.
Sansom has written a great tale of love, history and intrigue, which are nicely blended into a tale of loyalties and new allegiances. You don’t need to be a spy or war book fan to enjoy this novel, but this book is a big satisfying read probably because of the love entanglements, a large amount of not-so-far-fetched history stirred with a swinging mix of emotion.
The relationship complications made it for me, not being a spy or war fan but also the selling point was that it’s set in Madrid.
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