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The First Casualty by Ben Elton
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The First Casualty (original 2005; edition 2007)

by Ben Elton

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6472814,910 (3.63)30
Member:annalena21
Title:The First Casualty
Authors:Ben Elton
Info:Black Swan (2007), Edition: Export ed, Mass Market Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

The First Casualty by Ben Elton (2005)

  1. 00
    The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (PilgrimJess)
    PilgrimJess: The final part of the Regeneration trilogy that revisits the trenches of WWI.
  2. 00
    Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (PilgrimJess)
    PilgrimJess: Perhaps a more realistic depiction of life in the trenches of WWI.
  3. 00
    The General by C. S. Forester (devenish)
  4. 00
    Meltdown by Ben Elton (JessamyJane)
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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Captivating ( )
  DavidGibson | Jan 31, 2016 |
“One thing we’ve learned is that when people, especially politicians, start making decisions based on a reading of their moral compass, facts tend to be among the first casualties.”
― Steven D. Levitt, Think Like a Freak

Douglas Kingsley is a top police detective sentenced to jail for refusing to fight during WWI. Viscount Abercrombie, an aristocratic poet and war hero is found murdered in France. Kingsley is sent to France to find the truth behind the murder. Kingsley quickly realises that the main suspect, a shell-shocked soldier, is innocent. Kingsley finds himself caught in the world between the sanctioned murder of war and the illegal act of homicide.

In this novel Ben Elton revisits the trenches of WWI that he portrayed so hilariously with Blackadder and this is very different than any of his novels other that I've read in the past. The plot is pretty preposterous as even Kingsley thinks himself, why would any care about one death when thousands are dying on a daily basis? The introduction of historical background of suffragettes, the rise of Labour and Irish independence feel rather cliched IMHO.However it is worth persevering with because once Kingsley gets to the front line, the book moves onto a different plane and the main character becomes less facetious finally taking on real human dimensions.

There is no real mystery in who committed the dastardly crime and the ending is a little too neat
for my liking but that said whilst Elton is no Faulks for about 100 pages he manages to fill the reader with a real sense of the horror and misery that those real life combatants must have felt. As such it is a reasonable effort and worth a go. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Dec 31, 2015 |
Set during World War I in Flanders in June of 1917 this book is dedicated to Ben Elton's two grandfathers who fought on opposite sides during the War. Whilst recovering from shell shock inside a military hospital, popular war poet and soldier Viscount Abercrombie is shot dead. Meanwhile, Douglas Kingsley, Scotland Yard Inspector, refuses national service as the war itself defies his sense of logic. He's brought before a judge, branded a coward and his wife Agnes and their friends turn their back on him. Once he's thrown into prison he is assaulted by his fellow inmates, many of whom he put behind bars in the first place and who plot to kill him. After a particularly violent assault the Home Office abduct him and fake his death then send him to investigate the Viscount's murder behind the front lines at Flanders. Accompanying him is Captain Shannon, whom Kingsley quickly discovers is a psychopath. The investigation reveals that not only was Abercrombie a homosexual, but that he was also disillusioned with the war and writing poetry that expressed this in the same way that disillusioned war poet Siegfried Sassoon did.

The title refers to the famous quote; 'The first casualty of war is truth' and it's quite apt. A good read, takes a while to get you to the front line, but I thought it was well done. ( )
  DebbieMcCauley | Mar 7, 2015 |
An odd book, relatively decent plot but to me seemed derivative of Pat Barker. ( )
1 vote soliloquies | Apr 14, 2013 |
My second Ben Elton and while it was better than the first book I read - [b:Blind Faith|2164457|Blind Faith|Ben Elton|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320483062s/2164457.jpg|2346268] - that isn't saying much as Blind Faith was a mere '2 Star' read for me. This was not a bad book, but I thought that it could certainly have been better given the interesting premise.

Douglas Kingsley is a stubborn idealist (not a pacifist, mind you) who works as a policeman in World War-I era Britain. And alike all egoistical idealists, he denies to participate in the war even though that means his family would also have to face the consequences of his rather hypocritical stand against something he did anyway in his previous life - killing (He was a policeman after all, and admits himself that had sent quiet a few criminals to their death while working for the government and even had done some things that he didn't like). He denies to participate in the war as the sheer scale was too big to ignore! (Didn't I say he was a hypocrite?)

So, after having been disgraced nationally and sent to prison, Kingsley dreads being he might be murdered in prison by one of the fellow prisoners he himself arrested when he was a policeman.

But then something amazing happens. An officer cum a famous poet is killed in Ypres. Not by enemy fire. But in a hospital by a fellow Briton. Thus under special circumstances, Kingsley is sent to the front to investigate the murder.

The premise sounds interesting enough, doesn't it?

But my problem with the book was that that Elton lingered too much on the disgrace aspect of Kingsley's life in Britain after his denial to participate in the war and hence takes a very long time (more than half a book) to actually advance the main plot of the story. And even when Kingsley reaches the battlefront in France, the book fails to recapture wholly the sheer horror faced by the men in the Great War.

Even the final confrontation of Kingsley with the real killer seems overtly dramatic and hence unintentionally hilarious.

The book had promise, but for me, it didn't deliver.

That's 2 in 2, Mr. Elton. ( )
  Veeralpadhiar | Mar 31, 2013 |
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This book is dedicated to the memory of my much-loved grandfathers, Victor Ehrenberg and Harold Foster, who served on opposite sides in the First World War.
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The soldier was laden like a pack mule.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0552771309, Paperback)

In Flanders in 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 Konig, formerly a detective with the London police, soon discovers that both the evidence and the witnesses he needs are quite literally disappearing into the mud that surrounds him.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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