It is a bold author who, having found acclaim with two historical novels firmly grounded in a particular period, sets his third novel in an entirely different place some 500 years later – but that is what C J Sansom has done, and he has pulled it off magnificently.
Sansom, a Sussex solicitor, won critical applause with his first two titles, Dissolution and Dark Fire, historical whodunits set during the dangerous reign of Henry VIII. Winter in Madrid, while not exactly a whodunit, shares with them the author's enviable ability to land his readers in an alien world, yet make them feel entirely at home.
At first glance, the bleak stage of Spain – its people shivering, starving and suppressed – a couple of years after the end of the Civil War seems an unpromising setting. But in Sansom's capable hands, story, characters and that indefinable spirit of place meld and twist into a narrative