Jeffrey Bluhm, February 15, 2015 (view all comments by Jeffrey Bluhm)
The confluence of Marconi's development of wireless telegraphy and an obscure murder case from early 1900s London as a thrilling, entertaining, enthralling novel? Right - even I didn't believe the book jacket hype when I picked this up while browsing at the PDX Powell's, but this is one of the most memorable books I've read in the past twelve months. Sharing only a common time period for the majority of the book, the evolution of each of the two plots alone proves thoroughly enjoyable; when they come together for the last act of the novel, the denouement is everything for which an author strives and a reader hopes. Enjoy!
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)
Random House -
by Michal D.,
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.
by Michal D.
"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 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."
by Seattle Times,
"[A] rare nonfiction tale that stays riveting from the opening prologue to the final chapter."
by The Washington Post Book World,
"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."
"[Larson] interweaves gripping storylines about a cryptic murderer and the race for technology in the early 20th century. An edge-of-the-seat read."
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.
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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