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The First Casualty | [Ben Elton]

The First Casualty

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

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4.5 (26 )
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  •  
    Peter Morton 07-06-15 Member Since 2014

    Academic and author of books on 19th-20th century history & literature.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    7
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    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not Elton's best"
    What did you like best about The First Casualty? What did you like least?

    '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.


    Has The First Casualty turned you off from other books in this genre?

    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.


    What about Glen McCready’s performance did you like?

    Excellent. At first I thought his voice a bit monotone, but actually he proved he could do a whole range of feeling and accents.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daniel Joburg, South Africa 05-26-15
    Daniel Joburg, South Africa 05-26-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    35
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    "Great read & a cracking story"

    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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • M. Chantry
    London UK
    12/16/12
    Overall
    "Great story"

    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

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Jacqueline Curbishley
    Barbados
    2/27/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliance from Ben Elton."
    Where does The First Casualty rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    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.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Oh, definitely the scene where Kingsley climbs into his son's bedroom.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    UK
    1/8/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Gabriel
    east kilbride, United Kingdom
    3/29/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "well crafted novel which show the futility of war"
    If you could sum up The First Casualty in three words, what would they be?

    Good characters, Good story, Gripping


    What other book might you compare The First Casualty to, and why?

    All quiet on the western front maybe because it shows no matter what your principals are you can always get drawn into conflict


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    When all you have is your principals


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • robert
    chesterfield, United Kingdom
    12/1/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    Melksham, United Kingdom
    4/14/13
    Overall
    "Brilliant"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Susan
    Herts, United Kingdom
    4/27/11
    Overall
    "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

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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