The First Casualty by Ben Elton

Published January 28, 2023

The First Casualty by Ben Elton

Book info

  • Title The First Casualty
  • Author Ben Elton
  • Year 2005
  • Genre Historical

The first casualty when war comes is truth... Flanders, June 1917: a British officer and celebrated poet, is shot dead. He is 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.


Ah this was good. I’ve enjoyed Ben Elton’s writing in the past but that has usually been a satiric take on something more modern. This was a crime mystery fully focused on the first world war - in which a conscientous objector of sorts ends up on the front line. The characters were really well formed, the situations so well described it was like being there, and I thought the story was cleverly put together and executed. Loved it.

Rating: 5 / 5

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