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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.

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    436
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    546
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    287
  • 2 Stars
    59
  • 1 Stars
    27

Performance

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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    421
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    314
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    131
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    32
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    26

Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    354
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    347
  • 3 Stars
    175
  • 2 Stars
    33
  • 1 Stars
    17
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  • Overall
  • Performance
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Thunderstruck

What made the experience of listening to Thunderstruck the most enjoyable?

Feeling the tension of Marconi, and the ignorance of Belle, and the love between the two.(No spoilers)

What was one of the most memorable moments of Thunderstruck?

When they talk about the retrieval of Belle

Which character – as performed by Bob Balaban – was your favorite?

Dr. Crippen

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I couldn't it was to long. I read it in a day.

Any additional comments?

Erik Larson is such a fine writer. I would love to sit down and talk with him sometime. Please write about WW 2- Pearl Harbor, Edward 6, Titanic etc

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Could not get into this book

The story was a slough. Felt like I was trudging in quicksand. Could not get past chapter 4.

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Dianne
  • New Bern, NC, United States
  • 09-16-16

Hard to follow

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

To start out with main story without all the history leading up to it.

Has Thunderstruck turned you off from other books in this genre?

To detailed in science

What didn’t you like about Bob Balaban’s performance?

He didn't have much to work with.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Thunderstruck?

The entire beginning. He looses the ready very quickly.

Any additional comments?

I think this is on the second book I wished I hadn't purchased in all the years with Audio Books.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Another solid history

Any additional comments?

Another solid outing by Larson. This time, he examines Marconi and the invention/development/deployment of wireless telegraphy, and how that cutting edge technology led to the apprehension of Dr. Crippen (famous for murdering his wife). Larson, as always, has done his historical homework, and he builds the suspense by tracking both Marconi and Crippen from early adulthood to their convergence (or at least the convergence of Marconi's device and Crippen's fate) by laying out what was happening in their lives and the world. You come away feeling pity for Crippen and his poor choice of life partner, and with admiration tinged with some annoyance for Marconi, who had character flaws aplenty. An interesting look at how technology shrunk the world and a reminder that the public's breathless voyeurism is not a 21st century invention.<br/>

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Cool book, wooden narrator

Interesting topic, but the narrator did nothing to bring it to life. At points it sounded like he was just reading words out loud with zero awareness of what he was saying; he occasionally sounded surprised that they're were no more words (ie he had reached the end of a chapter). Also, the production quality was inconsistent between chapters. I wish that I had just read this one myself.

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Captivating story and so informative

I love how Erik Larson weaves good and bad parts of particular times together, and the details of all information related to the topic is explored. a most interesting and informative read. second time I have read this story.

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Very good read!

Very interesting and, at times, really gripping. Eric Lawson is an excellent writer. Very good read!

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Narrator or Story: Sonething's Not Working

What disappointed you about Thunderstruck?

I've loved Erik's other books. All of them. This one drags and drags. Not sure if it's the story or the narration. I'll probably check out a hard copy since Erik is one of my favorite authors.

Would you recommend Thunderstruck to your friends? Why or why not?

No. It's slow and goes on and on.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bob Balaban?

Scott Brick, Bianca Amato, Jill Tanner, Simon Vance, to name a few.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Thunderstruck?

A little more detail to help lock characters in my brain. People detail, not scientific detail.

Any additional comments?

Still love Erik Larson.

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  • Story
  • Sherry
  • United States
  • 01-24-16

Boring

What disappointed you about Thunderstruck?

It was incredibly boring. I kept reading, thinking it would improve, but had to stop.

Would you ever listen to anything by Erik Larson again?

Yes. Devil in The White City is excellent. I'm reading it now.

What does Bob Balaban bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Nothing. The reader's voice couldn't help this one.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It would be very interesting for a ham radio or other such technical person.

Any additional comments?

I want my credit back!

  • Overall
  • Richard
  • Palo Alto, CA, United States
  • 09-30-10

Wonderful story

Erik Larson tells a great story that makes it hard to stop listening. Highly recommended.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful