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Thunderstruck | [Erik Larson]

Thunderstruck

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2006 Erik Larson; (P)2006 Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Larson has a knack for creating genuine suspense in his writing, and his latest is thoroughly enthralling." (Booklist)
"Splendid, beautifully written....Thunderstruck triumphantly resurrects the spirit of another age." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (577 )
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  •  
    Michael Jones NW of New York City 11-14-06
    Michael Jones NW of New York City 11-14-06 Member Since 2006

    Book Jones

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    "Marconi, murder, mix well"

    I have enjoyed the unabridged audio book version of Thunderstruck read by the actor Bob Balaban, although I couldn't honestly say if it would hold my interest as much in print. Balaban has a pleasant yet oddly flat delivery that does not distract from the narrative. This, the author's second book in which he utilizes the formula of juxtaposition - where two seemingly unrelated bits of history, one sensational, the other pivotal in scientific advancement, find a unifying thread - might just cement Larson into writing solely in this sub-genre of his own device. Since, for me, pure dry facts of history or science tend not to hold my attention for long, I sincerely hope this style blossoms, not only from Larson but from other history scholars hoping to actually make some serious somolians from their long hours of difficult research by squeezing just a tincture of creative pulp into their work. Who says history can't drop a dose of the good stuff and shake its booty once in a while?

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annie Chicago, IL, USA 01-18-09
    Annie Chicago, IL, USA 01-18-09
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    "Interesting but no "White City""

    Not as good as Devil in the White City, but a similar format following scientist Marconi and contemporary EveryMan-turned-murderer Dr. Crippen. I enjoyed the historical descriptions of the development of wireless communication, including the personal jealousies and enemy-making practices of the scientists/engineers involved. The turn of that century seemed to be a point where the gentleman's scientific pursuit for shared knowledge butted heads with patented technology for commercial gain.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob Maryland, USA 12-08-07
    Bob Maryland, USA 12-08-07 Member Since 2005

    Bob

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    "Reader cannot read"

    This book, while not as good as "The devil in the White City", was OK. But the reader, Bob Balaban, Made the book difficult to follow. Mr. Balaban started the book off with a very fast read, finally he settled down to a good pace. But he does not seem to understand what punctuation is. He paused at awkward times, causing me to go back to understand what he was saying. I give the book 3 stars, I give Mr. Balaban 1 star, just for showing up.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Rodger Gantt 11-09-06 Listener Since 2004
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    "Marconi and the Kindly Doctor"

    Among Guglielmo Marconi's greatest advantages was that he didn't have too much education. He was home schooled and thus spared the mental set of a university education. Marconi was fascinated with electricity and read everything he could find about the experiments of Michael Faraday and Heinrich Hertz. Supported by his wealthy parents, Marconi applied his intuitive intelligence and dogged determination to develop a seemingly supernatural means of communication. But he needed an event to grab the public's attention.

    Erik Larson in his book, "Thunderstruck", describes the evolution of early radio in the context of Edwardian England and a notorious crime. Second only to Jack the Ripper, kindly Dr. Hawley Crippen kills his shrew of a wife and buries parts of her dissected body in their basement. He then escapes with his mistress on a steamer to Canada.

    Marconi's new invention is used to pursue the doctor. In the process, the press grabs the public's attention by publishing the details of the crime, the doctor's flight and Marconi's wireless. But Crippen is ignorant of all this since the ship's captain keeps the wireless communications a secret. This book is for the omnivore reader who likes to mix science history with human drama.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cathy El Cajon, CA, USA 04-08-08
    Cathy El Cajon, CA, USA 04-08-08 Member Since 2004
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    "Good book, bad reader"

    The story is interesting -- if you liked Devil in the White City, you'll like this one, too -- but the reader's intonation and pacing are just odd. Clear enough, but declarative sentences are read as though they're questions, and pauses and emphasis come at odd moments.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori TULSA, OK, United States 10-27-06
    Lori TULSA, OK, United States 10-27-06 Member Since 2004

    Portrait painter of Dogs, people, & other pets in Oil, Pastel, Watercolour, egg tempera, & sketches. Always listening while I create.

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    "Brilliant! again"

    For anyone who has not had the delicious pleasure of reading an Eric Larson book such as "Devil in the White City" or "Isaac's Storm" this his most current book, "Thunderstruck" will only leave you with an appetite for more of his unique style of merging the terrible with the technological.
    Erik Larson has once again written a masterpiece of nonfiction. In Thunderstruck he merges the macabre with the emerging advances in wireless communication of the early parts of the last century. I will not go into specifics of the characters involved, you can find other reviews for that. What I will say is this is one of the Best audio books I've listened to this year. Great Narration! Great Writing! Great Story! Download this you will not be disappointed!

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Claire 08-08-07
    Claire 08-08-07
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    "All facts, no story"

    This would have been better if it had been written as a science history book which is how it read. The murder mystery part of it was lost in the science history of telegraph communications.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 01-05-07
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 01-05-07 Member Since 2005
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    "very good"

    very good story, but i think the book is misconstructed in a couple of important ways and might have moved quicker. non-fiction buffs will still enjoy it i should think

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra Philomath, OR, United States 12-07-06
    Sandra Philomath, OR, United States 12-07-06 Member Since 2002

    I like unabridged novels. When I first joined Audible, many were abridged. That has changed. Non-fiction, politics, bios are favorites

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    "Not quite as thrilling"

    This book isn't quite as thrilling as the Devil in White City because the bad guy wasn't bad, just hen-pecked and the good guy wasn't good. Larson always intertains with science. It is my least favorite of the three he has written but it still is fascinating reading about the beginning of wireless transmission. I can't wait to see what his next juxtaposition will be.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Chukwuma Alpharetta, GA, USA 11-13-06
    Chukwuma Alpharetta, GA, USA 11-13-06 Member Since 2004
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    "PHENOMENAL"

    Erik Larson is a National Treasure.

    Anyone who has had the opportunity to read his previous book "The Devil in the White City", will definitely want to read this book.

    Larson has the ability to connect very interesting historical and technical facts to a true-life murder mystery in such a way as to provide an account that you will have difficulty turning away from.

    This is a book you will not want to miss.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
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