by Erik Larson
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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. Their 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 20th century. Gripping from the start, 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.
Not as good as "Devil in the White City" but in the same class. In Thunderstruck Larson once again brilliantly merges two stories, one of genius and achievment and one of murder and depravity. This is the story of the advent of wirless communication coupled with the curious tale of Dr. Crippen. It first seems that these two stories have little or nothing to do with one another, but as they progress they draw nearer to one another. Chronologically "Thunderstruck" is a bit choppy since the story of Marconi focuses mostly around 1900, but the other story is more around 1909 or so, but don't let that turn you off, Larson handles it well. Good narration too. Good read, good listen. Also don't forget to check out Eric Larson's "Devil in the White City," another amazing audiobook from the same author.