Winter in Madrid
Viking, Jan 2008, $25.95
By 1940 the brutal Spanish Civil War has finally ended, but much of the country remains devastated with people worried about basic sustenance needs like food, clean water, and shelter. As neutral Spain struggles to recover, the Germans blitzkrieg continues its rapid conquest of Europe and their air force daily bombs the last foe Britain. The leader of the winning side General Francisco Franco and his Fascist party considers joining the Nazis like Mussolini and Italy did.
England sends reluctant Harry Brett to spy on his old peer Sandy Forsyth, a dishonest Madrid businessman, who has close toes to Franco. Brett has doubts he is the man for the job, but journeys to Madrid to win the confidence of Sandy and through him what Franco’s plans re the war with Hitler are. However, he finds Madrid nothing like the energized vibrant city that it was just a few years ago under the short lived republic when he and his close friend Bernie Piper visited the city. Instead he finds distressed hopeless people starving and dying; he wants to go home where the Nazi bombings have only increased the fortitude of his fellow Brits to defeat the German monster.
WINTER IN MADRID is a terrific historical thriller that is part espionage and part political. The storyline provides an insightful look at the aftermath of Franco’s victory in the Civil War especially the political turmoil of a divided Fascist Party debating whether to join its two allies or recuperate from the bloody internal fight. C.J. Sansom places a powerful spotlight on battered Spain as WW II has devastated much the rest of the continent while the Battle of Britain seems inevitable and would enable Franco to claim like Mussolini he was on the victorious side.