From Ben Elton, author of the hugely successful Past Mortem, a gut-wrenching historical drama which forces us to handle the truth. Flanders, June 1917: a British officer and celebrated poet is shot dead, killed not by German fire, but while he was recuperating from shell shock well behind the lines. A young English soldier is arrested and, although he protests his innocence, is charged with his murder. Douglas Konig is a conscientious objector, previously a detective with the London police, now imprisoned for his beliefs. ...
From Ben Elton, author of the hugely successful Past Mortem, a gut-wrenching historical drama which forces us to handle the truth. Flanders, June 1917: a British officer and celebrated poet is shot dead, killed not by German fire, but while he was recuperating from shell shock well behind the lines. A young English soldier is arrested and, although he protests his innocence, is charged with his murder. Douglas Konig 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 in the case. Forced to conduct his investigations amid the hell of the third Battle of Ypres, Konig 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 that 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, Konig quickly learns that the first casualty of war is Truth. "From the Trade Paperback edition.""
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I have read many of Ben Elton's books but I was not prepared for the intensity of this volume, or the lack of humour normally associated with his writing. The cover could have been the closing scene of Blackadder IV, but there is little to amuse the reader in this volume. Instead, we find a thoughtfully crafted and poignant tale of the everyday harshness and cruelty of the First World War, on and off the battlefield.
Our story revolves around Douglas Kingsley, a policeman who is branded a coward and a conscientious objector, when all he feels is that the war is wrong, and he sees no point in prolonging it by taking part. He is sent to jail and there he receives harsh treatment from his fellow inmates, and is then suddenly plucked from this environment and transported to Belgium to solve a murder. The victim of the crime is Viscount Abercrombie, an army captain, who has been shot by one of his fellow soldiers. He is somewhat of a celebrity, having written a poem that proved popular with the rank and file. But he hides a dark secret, and his appearance at places such as the Lavender Lamp Club guides the reader to his proclivities. A fleeting relationship with another soldier in London before he leaves for the front is to cause him problems, culminating in his death.
Kingsley tracks the accused and the witnesses through the mud and devastation of the battlefield in his quest to solve the murder. He shows no cowardice when he gets caught up in the fighting and the carnage that is going on all around him, and manages to tie up the loose ends to everyone's satisfaction.
Happily, order is restored to his world once he returns to England and is re-united with his wife, though life will clearly never be as before. A thoroughly enjoyable book.
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