Books: "A Winter in Madrid" by C J Sansom
A cross between a historical novel and a thriller, A Winter In Madrid starts with Dunkirk veteran Harry Brett being sent to work undercover in Madrid during World War II. He is tasked with gaining the confidence of his old school-friend, Sandy Forsyth, suspected of being on the brink of revealing a new source of gold to the Spanish government, which would make Spain rich, less dependent on Britain- and able to join forces with Hitler.
If you are interested in history but don’t know much about the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s Spain, this is the perfect, light introduction through an engaging mystery and race against time. It’s thoroughly researched and authentic, exposing the tyranny, the poverty and the senseless bloodshed on both sides of the Civil War, and the desperation and hopelessness of the following years, when Spain began to pick up the pieces.
The drawback to A Winter In Madrid is that it hasn’t quite decided what it wants to be. It plods on like a historical novel until the last third, when it morphs into a page-turning thriller, complete with twists and turns and a villain-reveals-all showdown. One thing can be guaranteed, though- the ending will probably come as a surprise, and you can forgive the corniness and the fact that it contains more coincidences than a Dickens novel when it’s so breathtakingly gripping that you have to stay up half the night to finish it.
A helpful hint- the historical note bizarrely appears at the end. If you want to know more about the context, read this when you’re about a quarter of the way through- it won’t give anything away. Click here to buy this at Waterstones
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If you like this, you may also like: “Archangel” or “Enigma” by Robert Harris.