Winter in Madrid – C J Sansom

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Winter in Madrid – C J Sansom

Post by Graham on Tue May 01, 2018 9:16 pm

For once the blurb is not completely wrong: ‘If you like Sebastian Faulks and Carlos Ruiz Zafon’ you’ll love this. I would just swap the verbs around and say you will quite like this. Sansom is not in the same class as Faulks or Zafon, but this is a well-written and engrossing read. Incidentally, if you don’t know Zafon I recommend Shadow on the Wind.

Sansom’s story takes place in Franco’s Spain just after the civil war where the lives of three British ex-public-school boys become entwined for a second time. It is seen mainly through the eyes of Harry Brett. Wounded and traumatised at Dunkirk he has been recruited by the intelligence services to spy on his old chum Sandy Forsyth, a renegade at school and now engaged in a shady business venture with the Falangist regime. A third old boy, Bernie Piper, an International Brigader, is missing, presumed dead, after the Battle of Jarama but in fact incarcerated under brutal conditions in a prison camp. Forsyth is playing a dirty game and is emotionally mistreating his mistress Barbara Clare. She was Piper’s lover and when she discovers he is still alive, instigates a plot to free him.

The book cannot be faulted for its invocation of 40’s Spain and Sansom’s grasp of the politics and attitudes of the period. The characters too are well-rounded and believable. The more I write myself however the more picky I get about writerly faux pas and there are quite a few here. Jumping from head to head is never a good idea unless you are a louse but Sansom lets it slip in. There are also occasions where the plot feels contrived and even a long explanation by the victorious villain of how he thwarted the heroes’ plans. When the escape plan is put into action everything goes a bit too smoothly. Sansom does reserve several shocks but deals with them curiously almost with a sense of anti-climax.

These complaints aside I recommend it as an intelligent and engaging thriller.

Graham
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