May 14, 2011

‘The Dead of Mametz’ by Jonathan Hicks. Published by Y Lolfa.

The Dead of Mametz is a crime novel with an unusual setting, set as it is against the backdrop of the famous battle of Mametz Wood during the Great War in the summer of 1916. Several events also take place in Barry and Swansea. The central character, Thomas Oscendale, is a captain in the Military Police who is charged with investigating the murder of two soldiers of the Welsh Regiment and, subsequently, that of a local Frenchwoman.


It is early July 1916, the third year of the First World War. The soldiers of the Welsh Division are poised to begin their assault on the German-held Mametz Wood. But there is a murderer in their ranks.Captain Thomas Oscendale of the Military Police is in a race against time to apprehend the murderer and to find what lies buried in Mametz Wood. He is not alone. Sinister forces on both sides have taken an interest in his investigation and are closing in.

Members of the Western Front Association have described it as:

‘... need-to-read tension and riveting detail.’

‘... recommended to all those interested in WW1 or who love a great mystery’.

‘... a great mix of an intriguing storyline and superb historical detail.’

A Reader for the Welsh Books Council described it as ‘outstanding’.

The Author

Dr Jonathan Hicks is the Headteacher of St Cyres Comprehensive School in Penarth. He began his career as an English teacher and has taught in four secondary schools. Married with three sons, one of whom is also a teacher, he is a longstanding supporter of Cardiff City F.C.

He is the author of four books on military history: ‘A Solemn Mockery’ on the myths of the Anglo-Zulu War, which in 2006 won the Victorian Military Society’s top award; ‘Strange Hells’ which told the story of his great uncle’s service at Gallipoli and on the Western Front during the Great War. He has also written on his hometown’s military past in the 2007 book ‘Barry and the Great War’ – an illustrated account of the part that Barrians played in that conflict, a lecture on which won the Western Front Association Shield in 2010. In 2008 he wrote an illustrated account on the role Barrians played in WW2 - ‘Barry and the Second World War’.

His work has been published in the magazines ‘Soldiers of the Queen’, ‘Stand To’, ‘The Great War’ and ‘Britain at War’. He writes regular articles for the local press and twice a month gives lectures on military history throughout south Wales.

In this, his first novel, he has created a character about whom readers will surely demand to read more.

Dr Hicks says, “What makes my book different from others currently on the market is its time period and its central character. Oscendale is a thoughtful detective who fights against the brutality he sees all around him to bring a killer to justice and to solve the mystery surrounding the reason for the murders.

“There has been a burgeoning of interest in the Great War and I truly believe that a novel focused around a central character set in this time period will attract widespread interest.”
Theme of the Novel

The strength of this novel is the storyline; it is pacey, exciting and historically accurate, with strong characterisation. One of the themes is the contrast between the lives of men on the Western Front and those of the workers in the industries of South Wales. The wood provides the backdrop to the roles and actions of the characters, showing the contrast, and sometimes conflict, between Nature and Man. It is also a reflection on the greed of men and women, even in a time of war.

Although it is an historical crime novel, it will appeal to anyone who loves a good story with a fresh, new character in the form of the main protagonist. To transfer detection skills into the sometimes-maligned Military Police of the First World War is unusual, and Oscendale has a number of possibilities for future cases and settings. There are also some pointers in this novel to Oscendale’s past, and these will be explained and explored in subsequent novels.
Publication Date

15 May 2011
ISBN: 978-1847713155 Publisher: Y Lolfa

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