Winter In Madrid
Having no previous knowledge of Sansom’s prior success, both critically and commercially, with crime novels set in Tudor times, it was with innocence that I embarked on this novel. What a real pleasure it was to find that partway through it became one of those enjoyable experiences where every opportunity is taken to learn what happens next.
Of the three main male characters, we are brought most closely to associate with Harry Brett, a soldier recovering from shell-shock subsequent to his experiences at Dunkirk, who has been recruited by Whitehall to act as interpreter/spy attached to the British Embassy in Madrid. As an ex-public schoolboy, Harry is reluctant to ingratiate himself with his former school mate, Sandy Forsyth, and to report back on his involvement in suspect transactions. The third character, Bernie Piper, linked to the others by the commonality of their shared public school, is a communist who travelled to Spain to join the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and found himself imprisoned in a concentration camp.
The ex-Red Cross nurse, Barbara Clare, is on a mission to find her Communist lover, Bernie, and lives with Sandy and his girlfriend/wife, thereby satisfying her need for protection and his need to dominate.
Sansom’s use of his characters’ past experiences, depicted in scenes moving between the past and present, gives the reader the knowledge to understand more readily the choices a character makes in a fictional though authentic context.