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 ever more blurred, Kingsley quickly learns that the first casualty when war comes is truth.
©2005 Ben Elton (P)2009 Random House Audio
Academic and author of books on 19th-20th century history & literature.
'The First Casualty' is a whodunnit which is really an excuse to take the reader into the trenches of WW1 and 'over the top' (twice). The plot has lots of holes - it's easy to guess the murderer because there are no other candidates, really. And why would the government use the hero for this secret assignment, when he is just about the most loathed and recognisable conscientious objector in Britain at the time? Surely it had other detectives? And surely he would have understood long before what awaited him in prison, as a hated policeman? No, the real purpose is to describe trench warfare, where the hero, despite his 'logical' objection to the war, turns into a killing machine in short order. In general, I found it difficult to see what we are supposed to take away from the novel. Not one of Elton's best, but as usual a page-turner.
If by 'this genre' you mean books about WW1 the answer is no, although I think that event has had enough exposure for the time being.
Excellent. At first I thought his voice a bit monotone, but actually he proved he could do a whole range of feeling and accents.
Elton has an odd idea of what (most) suffragettes stood for. It was 'votes for women, chastity for men' in most cases. Extreme sexual promiscuity (of the kind his heroine displays, with her much re-used condom) wasn't on the agenda.
Really great read that is well worth the credit!
The narration is superb which transports you back to the trenches & lets you get a flip a if the world in 1917...
I can highly recommend this as an addition to your library
Brings out the horrors of war coupled with a great story. Can't wait to listen to the Two Brothers by the same author. Also very well read
"a good book this one...."
yes a good book to listen to. Enjoyable and interesting despite the horrors of ww1
"Brilliance from Ben Elton."
I've listened to thousands of Audio books over the years, so this is a bit of an unfair question because I have probably forgotten more than many people have read. However, The First Casualty ranks in the top ten of the last 12 months.
Kingsley because he is so much a gentleman of his time. They don't make them like that anymore. I was rooting for him all the way.
The scene in the car after Kingsley was taken from the prison and was pretending to be asleep. It had me on the edge of my seat. I had to stop ironing and turn up the volume. Vey exciting.
Oh, definitely the scene where Kingsley climbs into his son's bedroom.
The tone of the book very cleverly evoked the time of it's setting. Top marks for research to Ben Elton. The narrator was absolutely superb too. He got those voices of the men and the masters of the First World War to perfection. It's a great polemic on the folly and fabrication that accompanies all warfare.
"Very good romp, great narration and good story"
A whodunit set in the First World War. I won't give away the plot, but it's good fun and the pace is kept up throughout the last three quarters of the book (stick with the first part - it is worth it).
You might question all the plot points, of you wanted to be pedantic, but if you can overlook a bit of dramatic licence then you'll enjoy this.
The narration of this book brings it alive, I would certainly look for other titles read by the same narrator.
"well crafted novel which show the futility of war"
Good characters, Good story, Gripping
All quiet on the western front maybe because it shows no matter what your principals are you can always get drawn into conflict
When all you have is your principals
"A great read"
Gripping from start to finish. A fantastic book. The story is fast moving and really makes you think about those dark times.
I really enjoyed this intriguing "who dunit" set during the First World War. The background of history and politics added to an excellent murder mystery. Just one warning, there are a couple passages that are a bit explicit for the younger or easily embarrassed reader. Generally though Ben Elton did a great job of showing the stark reality of the Great War without descending into the gory.
"Excellent mix of crime and war"
Really enjoyed this mix of crime investigation set against the backdrop of the trenches in the first world war.
A little far fetched sometimes in that the hero of the story seems to be able to 'roam' around no mans land at will. Without coming to any harm but an easy read
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