Could have been a great book with a little more care
The storyline, with all of its sub-plots and inter-twining of characters, is excellent. It builds very well on the memories of Harry, an accidental spy; Barbara, a Red Cross nurse; Bernie, a public school friend of Harry and the love of Barbara’s life; and Sandy, a rather objectionable classmate of Harry and Bernie.
The author has obviously researched the period of Spanish history which spans the decade from 1931 to 1941 so well that the weaving of the many threads of fiction and fact are as smooth as silk.
However, this book is spoilt by the frequent irritations of fundamental errors which could have been eliminated by better editing. “’Harry,’ he said in Spanish,” could just have easily have been “’Harry,’ he said in Turkish,” or simply “Harry.”
There is a passage in the middle of the book where the author must have had the word “plump” on his mind as he wrote, for it appears at least three times on each page. The there are two occurrences of heavy machine guns being “set up,” which, in the same sentence, become sub-machine guns. Any soldier, and many non-military readers, would know that there is a world of difference between the two.
Then there is the half of madness where two officers switch rank. A general is demoted to colonel, and promoted back again, and a lieutenant is promoted to major, and back again. Crazy! And such negligent editing!
These irritations, for me, take the edge off what would otherwise have been a five-star-rated book.
Finally, I would not agree with the Sunday Express critic who placed Sansom in the same class as Sebastian Faulks and Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Definitely not!