Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: The First Casualty by Ben Elton

Ben Elton is best known for his comedy and humorous novels but in The First Casualty the author delivers a murder mystery set amidst the worst fighting of the First World War. Detective Kingsley goes to prison for refusing to fight in a war he considers unjust but finds himself in the trenches anyway, investigating the murder of poet and hero Viscount Abercrombie who had been suffering from shell-shock. The murder investigation proceeds slowly whilst the many distressing situations of the war are dramatized.

One of the strengths of this book is that it contains Ben Elton's typically anti-establishment attitude in the way he portrays the way that World War I is conducted and the politics of Britain at the time; this is hardly surprising considering the way that this period of time is widely regarded in modern times. In fact The First Casualty seems largely to be a vehicle for portraying the hardships of the time, touching on subjects such as the treatment of conscientious objectors, suffragettes, police brutality and the working classes, whilst taking a very long time to actually tell a story.