Part thriller, part love story, this tale follows the fortunes of three young men, navigating the tumultous world of 1940s Spain. As the Second World war begins, one is sent to spy on another and the ramifications of a tragic love story will haunt them all.
After being injured in Dunkirk and unable to return to the army, Harry Brett is asked to support the British war effort in another way, spying on his old school friend Sandy. Sandy is living in Madrid and his business ventures may provide Spain with the resources to enter the war on the side of Germany. Reluctantly, Harry agrees.
Life for Harry is black and white and he believes it is the right thing to do, which is why he agrees. Once in Madrid, though, everything takes on a shade of grey. The city is still recovering from the effects of the civil war and life for it’s citizens under Franco is harsh.
Harry’s feelings are further muddled by the mercenary attitude of his seniors and his blossoming relationship with a woman he meets called Sophia. There is also the added complication of Barbara, former girlfriend of his best friend Bernie and now wife of Sandy. Bernie was a volunteer in the Spanish civil war and is missing believed dead.
Winter in Madrid follows Harry’s attempts to do the right thing at the same time as his naivety is stripped away and Barbara’s search for Bernie. Both stories are intertwined and compelling. Neither tale is clear cut and the endings aren’t ones I expected.
I bought this book because it was on sale on amazon even though I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction – I just can’t resist a bargain – and I’m really glad I did. As mentioned, the story is compelling, it carries you forward, and the characters are ones I cared about (for the most part). There are also some unexpected twists and turns. Finally, whilst I know very little about the Spanish civil war, I felt it was well researched and the setting believable. I will definitely be reading more by Sansom in the future and can recommend this book.