Flanders, June 1917: a British officer and celebrated poet, is shot dead, killed not by German fire, but while recuperating from shell shock well behind the lines.
A young English soldier is arrested and, although he protests his innocence, charged with his murder.
Douglas Kingsley is a conscientious objector, previously a detective with the London police, now imprisoned for his beliefs.
He is released and sent to France in order to secure a conviction.
Forced to conduct his investigations amidst the hell of The Third Battle of Ypres, Kingsley soon discovers that both the evidence and the witnesses he needs are quite literally disappearing into the mud that surrounds him.
Ben Elton's tenth novel is a gut-wrenching historical drama which explores some fundamental questions.
What is murder? What is justice in the face of unimaginable daily slaughter? And where is the honour in saving a man from the gallows if he is only to be returned to die in a suicidal battle?
As the gap between legally-sanctioned and illegal murder becomes evermore blurred, Kingsley quickly learns that the first casualty when war comes is truth.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 448 pages
- Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
- Publication Date: 03/05/2006
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780552771306
Showing 1 - 5 of 7 reviews.
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Review by johnthefireman
Excellent book. Contains black comedy, a devious plot, and some real soul-searching about the First World war. A London police inspector who is a conscientious objector finds himself, through a complicated series of events, investigating a murder just behind the front line. There is a sense of authenticity about the horror of the war, and the story asks the question what is the point of investigating a single murder when thousands of men are being murdered every day in the front lines.
Review by iftyzaidi
This is the first book by Ben Elton that I have read, so I went into it without any particular expectations. It is an interesting blend of murder mystery and war novel which makes for engaging reading. I did find that the book seemed a little too artificial in construction though - it seems as if Mr Elton set out to deploy all the tropes of World War I fiction: disillusioned poets, going "over the top", the night-raid, the conscientious objector, the convalescence romance, etc. To any one who has read Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' trilogy or Remarque's 'All Quiet on the Western Front', this all seems rather familiar. Furthermore, Mr Elton's prose is in all ways lacking flair and style, being sparse and utilitarian. The characterization is also unspectacular. On the positive side, the plot unfolds like that of a movie (in fact I kept thinking as I was reading this, that it would make a pretty spectacular movie), with dramatic moments coming rapidly one after the other. All of this made for an easy, entertaining read, though not in any way a spectacular one.
Review by musicgurl
Ben Eltons 'First Casualty' is a fiction book with very non-fictional facts. It really teaches you of some events in the first world war. Normally, I would not have chosen it too read. It was my Dad who said it was a really interesting novel. Bordering on a detective and mystery book, it really illustrates some of the horrors and pain of the Great War while telling a story with many twists and turns. Once you have picked up this book, you may find it difficult to put down. It is a riveting read which can give you knowledge and a story in one. Ben Elton has indeed reasearched deeply to get evreything about this book perfect.
Review by penguin7316
A more serious book from Ben Elton, it portrays the everyday lives of two soldiers on opposite sides during the first world war.
Review by Rubbah
This was an enjoyable read, and it made me think about soem aspects of the war, like when killing is ever right. However, it did not have the same emotional impact that others such as regeneration,etc had.
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