I quite enjoy C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake novels, and I'm really excited by the idea of Dominion, his latest release; so I was hoping to really enjoy Winter in Madrid as it combines two of my favourite things-spies and Spain.However, Winter in Madrid was not quite as good as I wanted it to be. It tells the story of WW2 veteran Harry Brett who is enlisted by the Secret Service to spy on one of his old private school friends who is working in Franco's Madrid. At the same time, Barbara Clare is searching for Bernie Piper-another old friend of Harry's-who she refuses to believe died in the Spanish Civil War. Whilst this no doubt has the potential to be a really interesting read; the plot took about 400 pages to build, with the tension only really developing in the last quarter only to go a little bit crazy and then have an epilogue almost reminiscent of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows. There was also the addition of a fairly unnecessary romance, which I question the relevance of within the novel.As for the characters, Harry Brett was a fairly harmless character to be following, he was a great everyman to point out the sheer ludicrous side of the situation that he found himself in. I also really liked all the female characters that Sansom created; even Sofia whose relationship with Harry felt a little bit shoehorned was well drawn. Sandy was also a pretty complex character; even if he was also pretty horrible. A lot of the other character development was somewhat undone by the aforementioned end of the book, but Sansom made each one stand out.The best thing about Winter in Madrid was Sansom's ability to bring war torn Spain to life, an aspect of his writing that I also love about his Shardlake series. The desperate streets of Madrid were brilliantly painted, as was Civil War era Spain and the hideous labour camps that prisoners of war ended up in. Sansom's ability to transport the reader so wholly to a different country and time period is really, really great.Whilst I didn't love Winter in Madrid, it's certainly a really interesting look into a country's history which I don't really feel that we learn all that much about.