This is a departure for C. J. Sansom, most of whose other books feature Dr Matthew Shardlake, a deformed and slightly vulnerable, but also charismatic and brilliant, Tudor lawyer. Here C. J. Sansom moves forward to the twentieth century, between Britain and Spain: the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. Harry Brett, Bernie Piper and Sandy Forsyth were all at school together but thereafter their paths followed very different routes. When the book opens Bernie, who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War, is missing, presumed dead and Sandy, who had been expelled from school, is in Madrid, wealthy as the result of clearly shady dealings. Harry, recovering from the trauma of Dunkirk, is sent by the British government to investigate Sandy’s business but he is neither a spy nor particularly happy with his new posting. The three men are linked by Barbara, a former Red Cross nurse, and it is this link that forms the heart of the book. Exciting and romantic, the novel has brilliantly atmospheric descriptions of war-time Spain and characters you really care about. This is the second time I have read it and, if anything, it improves with time.
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