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Thunderstruck

by

Thunderstruck Cover

 

Staff Pick

In this remarkable follow-up to his hit thriller Devil in the White City, Erik Larson applies his considerable skill to craft a story of invention and murder. A tightly written page-turner.
Recommended by Michal D., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A true story of love, murder, and the end of the world's "great hush."

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men — Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication — whose 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.

Review:

"[Signature] Reviewed by James L. Swanson In this splendid, beautifully written followup to his blockbuster thriller, Devil in the White City, Erik Larson again unites the dual stories of two disparate men, one a genius and the other a killer. The genius is Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of wireless communication. The murderer is the notorious Englishman Dr. H.H. Crippen. Scientists had dreamed for centuries of capturing the power of lightning and sending electrical currents through the ether. Yes, the great cable strung across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean could send messages thousands of miles, but the holy grail was a device that could send wireless messages anywhere in the world. Late in the 19th century, Europe's most brilliant theoretical scientists raced to unlock the secret of wireless communication. Guglielmo Marconi, impatient, brash, relentless and in his early 20s, achieved the astonishing breakthrough in September 1895. His English detractors were incredulous. He was a foreigner and, even worse, an Italian! Marconi himself admitted that he was not a great scientist or theorist. Instead, he exemplified the Edisonian model of tedious, endless trial and error. Despite Marconi's achievements, it took a sensational murder to bring unprecedented worldwide attention to his invention. Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, a proper, unattractive little man with bulging, bespectacled eyes, possessed an impassioned, love-starved heart. An alchemist and peddler of preposterous patent medicines, he killed his wife, a woman Larson portrays lavishly as a gold-digging, selfish, stage-struck, flirtatious, inattentive, unfaithful clotheshorse. The hapless Crippen endured it all until he found the sympathetic Other Woman and true love. The 'North London Cellar Murder' so captured the popular imagination in 1910 that people wrote plays and composed sheet music about it. It wasn't just what Crippen did, but how. How did he obtain the poison crystals, skin her and dispose of all those bones so neatly? The manhunt climaxed with a fantastic sea chase from Europe to Canada, not just by a pursuing vessel but also by invisible waves racing lightning-fast above the ocean. It seemed that all the world knew — except for the doctor and his lover, the prey of dozens of frenetic Marconi wireless transmissions. In addition to writing stylish portraits of all of his main characters, Larson populates his narrative with an irresistible supporting cast. He remains a master of the fact-filled vignette and humorous aside that propel the story forward. Thunderstruck triumphantly resurrects the spirit of another age, when one man's public genius linked the world, while another's private turmoil made him a symbol of the end of 'the great hush' and the first victim of a new era when instant communication, now inescapable, conquered the world. 14-city tour. (Oct.) James L. Swanson's most recent book, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, was published by Morrow in February." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Larson has a knack for creating genuine suspense in his writing, and his latest is thoroughly enthralling." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"[F]itfully thrilling....At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Larson has produced another masterpiece of popular history....Larson has done a marvelous job of bringing the distinct stories together in his own unique way. Simply fantastic! Highly recommended." Library Journal

Review:

"Larson juxtaposes his oddly slapdash crime drama with a trivia-packed account of...Guglielmo Marconi's travails....The development of the wireless has its fascinations, but against a gory sexual psychodrama it doesn't stand a chance. (Grade: B-)" Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"[L]ucid explanatory prose....Readers will be forgiven...if the story of the murder and the fugitive couple proves more absorbing than the story of the development of wireless technology." Minneapolis Star Tribune

Review:

"[Larson] has taken an unlikely historical subject and spun it into gold....The only question is whether we're getting true magic or mere sleight of hand." New York Times

Review:

"[A] rare nonfiction tale that stays riveting from the opening prologue to the final chapter." Seattle Times

Review:

"Larson's gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makes Thunderstruck an irresistible tale....He beautifully captures the awe that greeted early wireless transmissions on shipboard." The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"[Larson] interweaves gripping storylines about a cryptic murderer and the race for technology in the early 20th century. An edge-of-the-seat read." People

Synopsis:

Larson tells the true stories of two men whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time. Gripping from the first page, and rich with fascinating detail about the time, this story is splendid narrative history from a master of the form.

Synopsis:

ERIK LARSON is the author of the national bestsellers Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm. ErikLarsonBooks.com

About the Author

Erik Larson is the bestselling author of the National Book Award finalist and Edgar Award–winning The Devil in the White City. He lives in Seattle with his wife, three daughters, and a dog named Molly.

Table of Contents

The mysterious passengers — Ghosts and gunfire — Betrayal — Secrets — An inspector calls — The finest time — Pursuit by thunder — Epilogue : into the ether — Coda : voyager.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

wowser, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by wowser)
Great history and great cultural commentary.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
piedmontgirl, September 6, 2011 (view all comments by piedmontgirl)
I have not read this book yet but have read some of Erik Larson's other books and thoroughly enjoyed them. This book looks promising.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Annette P, September 10, 2010 (view all comments by Annette P)
After reading Devil in the White City, I was thrilled to find Erik Larson's Thunderstruck. By connecting seemingly unrelated individuals, Larson illustrates, through his gift for storytelling, that the world really is a smaller place and maybe we aren't so separate as we think. What I love about Larson's books is that I learn so much history as I am reading - in a way as to be entertained as well as informed. He really does make the past come alive, and in so doing, invites the reader to see the people of the time as individuals who share the same desires and concerns as people do today. If you are looking for action, adventure, mystery, romance, AND reality, this is a great choice.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 3 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400080670
Publisher:
Three Rivers Press (CA)
Subject:
Maritime History
Author:
Larson, Erik
Author:
Erik Larson, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil in the White City
Author:
Erik Larson
Author:
Larson, Erik M.
Subject:
Europe - Great Britain - General
Subject:
Murder - General
Subject:
Radio
Subject:
Inventors
Subject:
History
Subject:
Murder - Investigation - Great Britain
Subject:
Inventors -- Italy.
Subject:
Modern - 20th Century
Subject:
History, Modern -- 20th century.
Subject:
Audio Books-Crime
Subject:
Crime-General
Subject:
Crime - True Crime
Subject:
Horror - General
Subject:
Sale Books-Nonfiction
Subject:
World History-1650 to Present
Subject:
World History-England General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
September 2007
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
9 BandW PHOTOS
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
8 x 5.17 x 1.05 in 0.8 lb

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Related Subjects

Engineering » Communications » Radio
Engineering » Engineering » History
Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Staff Picks
Fiction and Poetry » Horror » General
Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » General
History and Social Science » Crime » General
History and Social Science » Crime » True Crime
History and Social Science » Economics » General
History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » General History
History and Social Science » World History » England » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » Technology

Thunderstruck
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 480 pages Random House - English 9781400080670 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

In this remarkable follow-up to his hit thriller Devil in the White City, Erik Larson applies his considerable skill to craft a story of invention and murder. A tightly written page-turner.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "[Signature] Reviewed by James L. Swanson In this splendid, beautifully written followup to his blockbuster thriller, Devil in the White City, Erik Larson again unites the dual stories of two disparate men, one a genius and the other a killer. The genius is Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of wireless communication. The murderer is the notorious Englishman Dr. H.H. Crippen. Scientists had dreamed for centuries of capturing the power of lightning and sending electrical currents through the ether. Yes, the great cable strung across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean could send messages thousands of miles, but the holy grail was a device that could send wireless messages anywhere in the world. Late in the 19th century, Europe's most brilliant theoretical scientists raced to unlock the secret of wireless communication. Guglielmo Marconi, impatient, brash, relentless and in his early 20s, achieved the astonishing breakthrough in September 1895. His English detractors were incredulous. He was a foreigner and, even worse, an Italian! Marconi himself admitted that he was not a great scientist or theorist. Instead, he exemplified the Edisonian model of tedious, endless trial and error. Despite Marconi's achievements, it took a sensational murder to bring unprecedented worldwide attention to his invention. Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, a proper, unattractive little man with bulging, bespectacled eyes, possessed an impassioned, love-starved heart. An alchemist and peddler of preposterous patent medicines, he killed his wife, a woman Larson portrays lavishly as a gold-digging, selfish, stage-struck, flirtatious, inattentive, unfaithful clotheshorse. The hapless Crippen endured it all until he found the sympathetic Other Woman and true love. The 'North London Cellar Murder' so captured the popular imagination in 1910 that people wrote plays and composed sheet music about it. It wasn't just what Crippen did, but how. How did he obtain the poison crystals, skin her and dispose of all those bones so neatly? The manhunt climaxed with a fantastic sea chase from Europe to Canada, not just by a pursuing vessel but also by invisible waves racing lightning-fast above the ocean. It seemed that all the world knew — except for the doctor and his lover, the prey of dozens of frenetic Marconi wireless transmissions. In addition to writing stylish portraits of all of his main characters, Larson populates his narrative with an irresistible supporting cast. He remains a master of the fact-filled vignette and humorous aside that propel the story forward. Thunderstruck triumphantly resurrects the spirit of another age, when one man's public genius linked the world, while another's private turmoil made him a symbol of the end of 'the great hush' and the first victim of a new era when instant communication, now inescapable, conquered the world. 14-city tour. (Oct.) James L. Swanson's most recent book, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, was published by Morrow in February." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Larson has a knack for creating genuine suspense in his writing, and his latest is thoroughly enthralling."
"Review" by , "[F]itfully thrilling....At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson."
"Review" by , "Larson has produced another masterpiece of popular history....Larson has done a marvelous job of bringing the distinct stories together in his own unique way. Simply fantastic! Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Larson juxtaposes his oddly slapdash crime drama with a trivia-packed account of...Guglielmo Marconi's travails....The development of the wireless has its fascinations, but against a gory sexual psychodrama it doesn't stand a chance. (Grade: B-)"
"Review" by , "[L]ucid explanatory prose....Readers will be forgiven...if the story of the murder and the fugitive couple proves more absorbing than the story of the development of wireless technology."
"Review" by , "[Larson] has taken an unlikely historical subject and spun it into gold....The only question is whether we're getting true magic or mere sleight of hand."
"Review" by , "[A] rare nonfiction tale that stays riveting from the opening prologue to the final chapter."
"Review" by , "Larson's gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant tactility and filling it with surprising personalities makes Thunderstruck an irresistible tale....He beautifully captures the awe that greeted early wireless transmissions on shipboard."
"Review" by , "[Larson] interweaves gripping storylines about a cryptic murderer and the race for technology in the early 20th century. An edge-of-the-seat read."
"Synopsis" by , Larson tells the true stories of two men whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time. Gripping from the first page, and rich with fascinating detail about the time, this story is splendid narrative history from a master of the form.
"Synopsis" by , ERIK LARSON is the author of the national bestsellers Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm. ErikLarsonBooks.com
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