Seems to be my year for the Spanish Civil War. Touting Winter In Madrid to a friend led me to a series on the subject by Rebecca Pawel, and so Death of A Nationalist joins the Writer Working repertoire.
The world of this war pits the Republicans against the Nationalists. As always, there are splits and factions within each group, but in general the nationalists back Franco the semi-fascist dictator, the Republicans a communist-leaning group dedicated to the overthrow of the dictator. Unlike Winter In Madrid, we enter the fray here after the Republicans have lost. The Francophiles are having a tough time keeping the lid on the opposition, though, and there is constant vigilance against insurrection. Our “nationalist” is a Sergeant Tejada who is a member of the “Guardia,” paramilitary soldiers in charge of patrolling the streets of Madrid and rooting out anti-government opposition wherever it may rear (or try to hide) its ugly head.
A colleague of Tejada’s–a friend–is killed. He heads the investigation. Through the misinterpretation of a number of clues, he kills the wrong person. Eventually, he becomes involved with the family of the victim, who are indeed “reds,” and his acquaintance with them leads him to begin questioning his loyalties. Pawel’s writing is intricate in its tracing of the moral conflicts and shading of principles that her characters encounter as they try to remain true to their convictions at the same time as they fight to survive in a city whose economy has collapsed but which is under strict martial law.
There is pain, drama, and inspiration in these pages. A fine read about a little-known era, and era about which we would all do well to understand better.