Winter in Madrid begins in 1940 as the Spanish Civil War has ended and left Spain and it’s people drowning in poverty and despair. Harry Brett is sent to Madrid by the British Secret Service in the guise of an interpreter at the British Embassy to spy on an old schoolmate Sandy Forsyth who specializes in shady business dealings. Sandy lives with his “wife” Barbara Clare who has a hidden agenda of her own. When Barbara was a Red Cross Worker during the Civil War she had a relationship with Bernie Piper (a former schoolmate of Harry and Sandy) who came to Spain to fight for the Communist cause, and is presumed dead. Or is he? When Barbara was left bereft by Bernie’s death, Sandy befriended her and set her up as his “wife”. Harry soon finds himself mired in the muck of Sandy’s schemes and the intrigues of the Franco regime, and Barbara sets a daring scheme in place that could threaten them all.
So, that all sounds exciting eh? Not. I don’t know what book everyone else read but I’m finding myself once again in the minority (but I’m used to it). The story was slow paced and predictable, the dialogue stilted and the prose a bit too dry. I really didn’t connect with any of the characters, and frankly everyone was either really really good or really really bad. The coincidental connections between Harry, Sandy, Bernie and Barbara (and other characters) stretched the believability factor a tad too much, as well as a big tah-dah ending that fell flat. Even the scenes of a people torn apart by Civil War and left starving and persecuted were nothing more than shallow window dressing – a missed opportunity to educate on the horrors of war. A story that had a lot of potential to educate and entertain ended up for this reader as “meh” – not a bad book but certainly not a great one. Get it from the library if you must, I’m glad I did