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.
Ghosts and Gunfire Distraction
In the ardently held view of one camp, the story had its rightful beginning on the night of June 4, 1894, at 21 Albemarle Street, London, the address of the Royal Institution. Though one of Britains most august scientific bodies, it occupied a building of modest proportion, only three floors. The false columns affixed to its facade were an afterthought, meant to impart a little grandeur. It housed a lecture hall, a laboratory, living quarters, and a bar where members could gather to discuss the latest scientific advances.
Inside the hall, a physicist of great renown readied himself to deliver the evenings presentation. He hoped to startle his audience, certainly, but otherwise he had no inkling that this lecture would prove the most important of his life and a source of conflict for decades to come. His name was Oliver Lodge, and really the outcome was his own fault another manifestation of what even he acknowledged to be...
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).
Full Review (840 words).
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 ...
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