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The First Casualty Paperback – June 27, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 419 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Publishers; New Ed edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552771309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552773362
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,023,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Set amidst the horror of Passchendaele, this is the first historical thriller from CWA Gold Dagger Award-winner Ben Elton.

About the Author

Ben Elton’s career as both performer and writer encompasses some of the most memorable and incisive comedy of the last twenty years. His TV credits include The Young Ones, Blackadder, and The Thin Blue Line. He has written three West End plays, directed a feature film, and written a musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Customer Reviews

As always, a fantastic story from Ben Elton mixed with historical facts.
lizziem
A Great book for any mystery lover and for every Elton fan and for any person who can read, highly recommended.
T. Nakar
The characters are lively, the smattering of war anecdotes believable and the logic adequately puzzling.
J. Yasmineh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Kettlewell on March 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book deserves closer analysis than my hazy recollections of a few months ago, but life being what it is this will have to do.

Elton creates perhaps the least sympathetic character possible as his war hero: a conscientious objector. I don't know that this book could have even been published closer to the time of its WW1 setting (well, I'm sure it couldn't have given some of the sexual content taken for granted less than a century on), but community attitudes have altered pretty radically since then. That being said, Elton's point is well made that while you'd never know it by reading a thousand other fictional books in this setting, there were conscientious objectors in the Great War, not to mention communists, homosexuals, Irish nationalists and feminists. Many stories set in wars are well researched, but it is refreshing to have a wider, more representative population. While he does have something of a barrow to push, Elton gives a deal more respect and time to conventional stiff-upper-lip conservatives in this book than more traditional war story writers give to his non-mainstream protagonists. Perhaps it would have been better if Elton had have allowed us an equally articulate pro-war character, the presentation of Kingsley's case is so strong as to border on a straw man attack, but, granted, we have been gorged with the pro-war argument from so much media for so long, in the scheme of things this is hardly going to tip the balance. In a similar spirit I'll grant him some clunky expository dialogue as Tommies summarise contrasting views on the reasons for the war: this conversation feels retrofitted, but it's interesting to even hear some alternative perspectives.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kristian Pagh Nielsen on January 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is one of Ben Elton's best books, along with "Popcorn", "Dead Famous", and "High Society". It is really well worth a read. Elton mixes sex, violence and serious debates about moral issues excellently - almost like a modern day Shakespeare, using dialogues with opposing views to emphasize his points rather than painting everything black and white. Some reviewers have said that this book is different from his other books in that it is very serious and is without comedy. I must say that I disagree, although the comic situations does not make one laugh out loud due to the gloom and doom of the story in general, they are there.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Yasmineh on May 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Being an avid reader of Ben Elton's other works, I scarcely noticed anything typically 'Eltonian' about this book, which I previously would've thought might be a mark against it, but not so.

The story reads quickly and is not particularly deep or heavy, which might not find favour amongst veterans of World War epics. Nevertheless, in the general absence of humour or satire, Elton's ability as a master storyteller shines.

Without giving too much away, the book concerns a police detective commissioned to investigate the murder of a soldier on the front lines of the First World War. The thought provoking dichotomy of a single man's death contrasted with the death of millions notwithstanding, this book provides just the right mix of detective story, characterisation and the horrific scenic descriptions of the war to keep you engrossed until the very end.

It rolls along smoothly, never getting boring or repetitive. The characters are lively, the smattering of war anecdotes believable and the logic adequately puzzling. Having said that, it remains a touchingly heartfelt story of a rational man finding himself mixed up in a war out of all proportion to anything he could've imagined. Even if you mainly read Elton for his humour, you'll love the hero and love this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shane McNee on September 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you've read any of Elton's previous works, then you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect - a quick-moving narrative that includes some snappy dialogue, social commentary, pathos and farce (interviewing a witness during a charge across no-man's land took particular advantage of the suspension of disbelief).

As with "Dead Famous", the murder mystery is only mildly engaging, the characters are similarly one-dimensional - Inspector Kingsley is virtually identical to Chief Inspector Coleridge of the earlier work, while the supporting characters are almost caricatures.

Despite this, "The First Casualty" is a good yarn, but like "High Society" Elton tackles an emotional subject but too rarely provokes strong emotions.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lesley West on February 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am a huge fan of Ben Elton's television work, but for the most part find his novels difficult - I think they just try too hard to be funny. But considering that this book is not humourous, and that it tackled a tragic time in history, I thought it worth a try.

I was wrong. He tackles the horror of war in the trenches with a gritty detail that is disturbing, but even then it is somewhat clinical, and the many scenarios offered really don't engage the reader. In fact it was tempting to skip over several of the battle scenes in order to move forward with the trials and tribulations of our hero.

On that point the characters are boring, a little harsh perhaps, but there is little in any of them to make us care about their adventures, hopes and desires. Many of them are so sterotyped as to be almost cut out figures.

Finally, this is touted as a mystery, but I have to admit that I figured out whodunnit in a disgracefully short period of time.

Overall, a disappointing story that I frankly found difficult to perservere with. I was tempted to give it 1 star, but decided on 2 becuase there has clearly been considerable research as to the awful inhumane conditions at the front during World War 1. But alas that doesn't save it from being a predictable story filled with bland characters.

Let's have more Blackadder I say!!
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