Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom is not a book I would have chosen myself. I was given it for Christmas and completed it this afternoon, having immersed myself in its drama and complexities for the past three or four days. Having half-heartedly studied the Spanish Civil War at school I was vaguely aware of the intricacies of a dark and bloody period and this book’s detailed exploration of that time and the politically strained aftermath when Spain’s role in the World War was under watchful examination from all sides brought a fascinating subject into close focus. The novel proved more than just a history lesson though. As a thriller, albeit one with more dialogue than raw action, its twists kept the pages turning routinely and the close attention paid to the nuances of the characters meant the denouement was all the more electrifying as one’s sympathies with or antipathies towards various individuals kept one on edge for the last hundred pages. I can imagine this book being filmed and envisage the last paragraph in particular, an absolute belter of a surprise, really jolting audiences. I’m not usually one for espionage-dominated thrillers but this novel certainly had me thinking and, importantly, made the heart race as events conspired and combined relentlessly towards a stirring conclusion.