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Winter in Madrid

About the Book

Winter in Madrid

In 1940 Spain, as Franco determines whether to ally himself with Hitler and enter World War II, Madrid lies in ruins, its once majestic streets ravaged by the Spanish Civil War, its people starving and bitterly divided by political conflict. This historical backdrop forms the setting for C. J. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid, an intense thriller and love story that examines the dangers of ideology and loyalty.

As the aching chill of winter falls on the Spanish capital, reluctant spy Harry Brett lands in Madrid, sent by the British Secret Service to win the confidence of his old school chum Sandy Forsyth, a businessman with some very shady investments. Wounded at Dunkirk, Harry is an upper-class Englishman, with an affection for his old school, Rookwood, and an unshakable sense of loyalty and honor. In contrast, his old classmate Sandy is corrupt and dissolute, a jaded risk taker expelled as a teen from Rookwood, who still resents his father’s disapproval. The two are connected by the memories of their school days --- as well as by Sandy’s girlfriend, Barbara, a former Red Cross nurse who was once in love with another mutual Rookwood friend, Bernie Piper.

Unlike the principled Harry or disreputable Sandy, Bernie is passionate. His zeal for the Communist cause brought him to Spain in 1937 to fight with the International Brigades against Franco’s fascists. On the bloody battlefields of the Jarama, Bernie disappears, listed missing and believed killed. Left behind heartbroken, Barbara begins a relationship with Sandy, but she never stops hoping that Bernie might still be alive. Eventually, with hefty bribes, Barbara uncovers information about Bernie and develops a plan to help him escape.

Bernie is alive --- albeit barely --- imprisoned in a brutal labor camp in the harsh Tierra Muerta, or dead land. Injured, malnourished, and physically exhausted, Bernie gains strength from his belief and fervor for the ideals of Communism, strength to keep fighting against the prison guards, the intrusive piety of the Catholic church, and the squabbling of his fellow Communist prisoners.

As another long winter descends on Madrid, seeping cold brings a growing sense of despair. Can Bernie conserve his strength until he is rescued? Will Harry uncover Sandy’s secrets without being unmasked as a spy? And in the chaos and corruption of post–Civil War Spain, can anyone be trusted? Carefully researched, layered with details both harrowing and beautiful, Winter in Madrid is at once an ambitious love story and a candid portrait of a war-torn country caught between false ideology and authority.

Winter in Madrid
by C. J. Sansom

  • Publication Date: January 27, 2009
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0143115138
  • ISBN-13: 9780143115137