Margie, June 13, 2008 (view all comments by Margie)
An interesting read interweaving the competition and rush to perfect wireless telegraphy for local and trans-Atlantic use and a mysterious disappearance of a wife. Don't want to give too much away or there will be no need to read this engrossing book.
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Paul McFarland, July 4, 2007 (view all comments by Paul McFarland)
A history of the murderer Dr. Hawley Crippen and that of Guglielmo Marconi. Two men whose lives intersected by the fact that Dr. Crippen was the first criminal to be apprehended as a result of wireless communication. The parallel stories shed light on the daily life of England in the days before World War 1. This was an age not only of progress but also in the very strong belief in the idea of progress itself. A time in which all things seemed possible. However, at the same time the age-old causes that lead first to the murder of a no longer tolerable wife by Crippen and indeed to the much larger crime of the coming war still worked strongly. The story of Crippen and Marconi are well told. Crippen strangely enough ends the book having garnered more sympathy than Marconi who does not stand in a good light despite his great invention. The day-to-day details of the time are interesting and well developed. Overall a good read.
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SKent42, December 4, 2006 (view all comments by SKent42)
As riveting as his last book, The Devil in the White City, Larson weaves 2 stories expertly through his book, the advent of the wireless telegraph and the rush to perfect it and bring it to the masses, juxtaposed against the tangled life of one Dr. Crippen, and the chase to hunt him down after the remains of his wife was discovered under his basement floor. Absolutely enchanting.
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rjones, November 20, 2006 (view all comments by rjones)
As a lover of fiction and non-fiction both, I have found the Larson books to be the best of both worlds. Where else can you enjoy the facts and figures surrounding fascinating historical detail yet feel as though you are spellbound in a story that not even the most creative storytellers could have developed. Erik Larson does a phenomenal job and it is a wonderful read.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"[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.)
by Booklist (Starred Review),
"Larson has a knack for creating genuine suspense in his writing, and his latest is thoroughly enthralling."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[F]itfully thrilling....At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson."
by Library Journal,
"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."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"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-)"
by Minneapolis Star Tribune,
"[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."
by Seattle Times,
"[A] rare nonfiction tale that stays riveting from the opening prologue to the final chapter."
by New York Times,
"[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."
The bestselling author of The Devil in the White City tells the amazing, interwoven stories of two men — Hawley Crippen, a doctor and an unlikely murderer, and Gugliemo Marconi, the obsessive genius who invented the wireless — whose stories converge during the greatest criminal chase of all time.
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