A true story of love, murder, and the end of the worlds great hush
In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two menHawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communicationwhose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.
Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners, scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed, and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, the kindest of men, nearly commits the perfect crime.
With his superb narrative skills, Erik Larson guides these parallel narratives toward a relentlessly suspenseful meeting on the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate. Thunderstruck presents a vibrant portrait of an era of séances, science, and fog, inhabited by inventors, magicians, and Scotland Yard detectives, all presided over by the amiable and fun-loving Edward VII as the world slid inevitably toward the first great war of the twentieth century. Gripping from the first page, and rich with fascinating detail about the time, the people, and the new inventions that connect and divide us, Thunderstruck is splendid narrative history from a master of the form.
The dual-story that worked so well in The Devil in The White City does not work quite as well here. The connection between the two halves of Thunderstruck feel a little strained; while H.H. Holmes committed his murders against the backdrop of the World's Fair, there are years between Marconi inventing the wireless and Crippin's undoing at the hands of this cunning new invention - years that require Larson to jump back and forwards in time which makes for a slightly awkward read. In addition, occasionally Larson's digressions in Thunderstruck are just a little too tangential. Having said that, if you've enjoyed books such as Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman, and of course, The Devil in The White City, you're unlikely to find yourself disappointed by Thunderstruck. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Times - Kevin Baker
Erik Larson has done it again. In Thunderstruck, just as in his last book, The Devil in the White City, he has taken an unlikely historical subject and spun it into gold. The formula is simple enough, though the finished books verge on alchemy. The only question is whether we’re getting true magic or mere sleight of hand.
The Washington Post - Lauren Belfer
Larson's gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makes Thunderstruck an irresistible tale
Starred Review. Thunderstruck triumphantly resurrects the spirit of another age.
High School Library Journal –Pat Bangs
In an era when wireless has a whole new connotation, young adults interested in the history of scientific discovery will be enthralled with this fascinating account of Marconi and his colleagues' attempts to harness a new technology. And those who enjoy a good mystery will find the unraveling of Dr. Crippen's crime, complete with turn-of-the-century forensics, appealing to the CSI crowd. A thrilling read.
Larson has done a marvelous job of bringing the distinct stories together in his own unique way. Simply fantastic! Highly recommended.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Dorothy T. History made fascinating Eric Larson has a great gift for taking historical facts--well documented--and, by focusing on individual persons, presents his readers with an engrossing tale. I recommend his books to anyone with even a little bit of interest in history.
Rated of 5
by VW Large Efforts of Small Men Once a young student with little or no appreciation of history, I now read books like Larson's with curiosity and genuine interest. This author weaves together the stories that made headlines at the last turn of the century. One person's actions... Read More
Winner of the 1909 Nobel Prize,
Guglielmo Marconi was born in Italy in 1874, the son of an Italian country
gentleman and Englishwoman, Annie Jameson. He was intrigued by electrical
science from an early age and at just 21 years of age he succeeded in sending
wireless signals over a distance of one and a half miles. A year later, in
1896, he was granted the world's first patent for a system of wireless
telegraphy, and shortly after formed The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company
Ltd. In 1890 he took out his famous patent No. 7777 for "tuned or syntonic
telegraphy". The following year he proved that wireless signals were not
effected by the curvature of the earth by transmitting a wireless signal across
the Atlantic between Cornwall and Newfoundland - a distance of 2100 miles.
Over the next decade he patented several more inventions, until World War I
intervened. In 1914 he was commissioned in the Italian Army as a Lieutenant,
later promoted to Captain; then in 1916 he transferred to the Navy in the rank
of Commander. In 1919 he...
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