Mark Oldfield says that the idea for "The Sentinel" came from talking to two elderly Spanish ladies about the Civil War, one from each side, living in the same city.
Mark Oldfield is a criminology researcher who has a real passion for Spain and his aim with this book , apart from producing a cracking historical thriller ,is to the compare two different Spain's-the Spain of 1953 and the modern Spain.
In the Spain of 2009 15 bodies have been found in an abandoned mine. The 15 bodies, we learn, had been buried in the early 1950s at a time when Franco is ruling Spain with an iron fist. One of his enforcers is a brute of a man - Comandante Guzmán. As Head of Franco's secret police - the Brigada Especial - Guzmán takes his orders directly from Franco himself, ensuring that those perceived as "enemies of the state" soon disappear.
The bulk of the plot is taken up with the appalling yet magnetic Guzmán but two other timelines run in this book with some chapters explaining how he came to be the Spanish Civil War "hero of Badajoz" and the third set in 2009 intruding us to Ana Mariá Galindez, a forensic scientist with the guardia civil who is asked to examine the 15 bodies, but her investigations lead her to want to know more about Guzmán.But it appears some others are more interested in preventing her achieving her aims.
While some may found the differing timelines jarring , I did not find the idea a problem, it was more the execution if you will forgive the Guzmán based pun. The 1953 timeline is so atmospheric , tense and riveting , dominated by the malevolent Guzmán that the other timelines pale in comparison , especially the contemporary one, which meanders a bit but ultimately showcases that evil and bad intentions resonate on down the years.
The First of a trilogy ,"The Sentinel" , share some noticeable parallels with another literary trilogy "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". Men were portrayed as exerting their power in violent domineering ways and there was also a young, gay heroine. I doubt this series will have quite the same impact but this is still a compelling intelligently written thriller with a memorable central monster echoing from the Spanish civil war , rather like the loathsome Captain Vidal of "Pans labyrinth . Whilst in that film fantasy provides succour and escape from the evils of fascism in The Sentinel there is no escape, even many years down the line.