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Top Customer Reviews
Larson's other books have stuck to a winning formula, and he does not deviate from this simple framework for Thunderstruck. In the Devil and the White City the story of the Chicago World Fair, and the awesome demonstration of science and technology that went with it, was narrated alongside the gruesome story of mass murderer [ ]. In the Drowning of Galveston the nascent science of meteorology was tested and found flawed with devastating consequences, and again Larson wove a story of technological progress around human suffering.
In Thunderstruck the technological progress takes the starring role. The main thrust of this book is the story of radio waves, wireless telegraphy and the intriguing personalities that developed them. This is the story of Marconi, Fleming, Lodge and Tesler in an age where the transmission of messages through the ether to once isolated ships seemed as miraculous as the psychic and metaphysical demonstrations of mediums that fascinated late Victorian England.
But once again Larson ties the story of progress with something darker. In this case it is the case of Dr Crippen, his domineering and eventually dismembered wife Belle and Ethel Le Neve, his mysterious mistress. Most people will be familiar with the story of Crippen, the body in the basement and his eventual capture by use of wireless telegraphy. This is the connections that binds the two stories.Read more ›
In this book he takes as his subject one of the famous of Victorian murders, Dr Crippen. The case itself is not exactly remarkable - the list of men who murder their wives and elope with a mistress is after all depressingly long. However, what made the case of Dr Crippen stand out is the use of the new technology of wireless telegraphy in his capture. The sensational drama of the chase, Dr Crippen and his mistress sailing the Atlantic oblivious to their fate whilst wireless was used to communicate and coordinate every aspect of the chase to police and the public on both sides of the Atlantic. The other strand to this narrative history, therefore, is the story of Guglielmo Marconi and his invention of the technology that would revolutionise communication and make the world a much smaller place, much to Dr Crippen's cost.
I have to confess, I am not remotely interested in science or the history of inventions and found little of any real note in the Dr Crippen case either. Therefore the fact that I so thoroughly enjoyed this book is true testament to the author. I've read several other of Erik Larson's books and they have all been equally as good. He isn't an historian I would turn to for any great depth or insight, but for a rollicking good read, and a true one, to boot, he's hard to beat.
There, the 'White City' as a human construct, built to highlight the brightest of men's achievements, serves as an unknowing and unwilling lure to the deadly and dark ensnarement of 'The Devil' - Almost a case of "The brighter the light, the darker the shade"; In this book the tales of Marconi and Crippen are also related in parallel, but in a slightly hazy chronological order sometimes, and the two stories really only touch, make contact, at the end.
It doesn't make it any less satisfying which is why I've given it a 5*, and it's fascinating to read about people's incredulous amazement that any kind of messages could be sent through the ether (given how wireless technology in all its forms is absolutely embedded in our civilisation, just a hundred or so years later).
On a total side-note, years ago I'd read a book about the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, captained by Henry Kendall - It was interesting to get a glimpse into his eventful past and the part he played in the capture of Dr Crippen.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderful and accurate account of a murder case that caused a sensation at the time, but made even more famous because its resolution was possible thanks to the use of a new... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Anakina
Wow ! I can't say enough great things about this book. Cover to cover it was pure entertainment with all of the great features of suspense, historical facts, and social history... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Bruce Miller
I was really disappointed with this book. Larson's The Devil in White City was amazing and held my interest from page 1. This book dragged and was dry in its approach.Published on 22 Feb. 2014 by Yank Abroad
The Marconi sections are more interesting than the Crippen ones until the chase is on. Worth a read but not a real page turner.Published on 11 Dec. 2013 by Mr Gavin J Fowler
The author presents an impeccably researched book that intertwines seamlessly the three main characters of
Dr Crippen, Marconi and Dew. Read more
When I bought this book I was expecting to read an intriguing story about Dr.Crippen. Instead half of the book was dedicated to the invention of electricity by Marconi which seemed... Read morePublished on 5 Feb. 2011 by Helena