Francisco Franco, a fascist oppressor, puts Spain into civil war in 1936. To help the nation come out of it, the International Brigades fights against the fascists. Bernie Piper, a communist, from Britain goes off missing from the battle of Jarama in 1937. People assume that he will never come back. But his lover Barbara Clare still holds a glimmer of hope.
Next the time is 1940, when Spain is troubled by Germany from its neck and from the sea England is encouraging her to refrain from Germany. The WW-II is on. Harry Brett, shell-shocked and Dunkirk returned, is sent to spy on Sandy Forsyth, allegations are that he is involved with fascists to make money from the war-torn Spain. Harry is shocked to discover that Barbara is living with Sandy. However, he too falls in love with a poor girl Sofia. Harry, Sandy, and Bernie all are from public school. Their rivalry for superior being is not new, and Sandy was always objectionable to both guys. However, Bernie is missing and all these people are in Spain for some secretive objectives, thus each one living with buried secrets in their hearts.
Barbara finds out that Bernie has been taken as POW, so she prepares to release him by betraying Sandy. As Barbara’s preparations shapes up, Sandy vows to rise up by trampling his old school-day chums. Harry finds himself in a mess, though half reluctant and partly scared, he moves ahead with Barbara only to find themselves in the hands of fascists, where Sofia gets killed by fascists. It is only Barbara’s last minute interruption that saves them and they run away with Bernie as a trophy of their secrets.
Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom is a war-fiction. It also sounds political thriller, however. The book underlines the coiled politics in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War of 1940. The plot, the characters, and the settings are perfectly aligned and paced up with the story.