Mark’s #51 – Thunderstruck by Erik Larsen (2007)

Thunderstruck is the story of two men whose lives are improbably intertwined in the  early 1900’s.  Guglielmo Marconi is the man who invented the “wireless” and changed the world forever.   Hawley Crippen is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered man who ends up taking meticulous steps to murder his overbearing, adulterous wife, and almost succeeding in getting away with it… Crippen would have succeeded had it not been for Marconi’s invention which enabled Scotland Yard to communicate via wireless to the transatlantic ship Crippen and his new lover we aboard while trying to escape.

Like other books I’ve read by Larsen (In The Garden of Beasts and Devil in the White City), this book not only digs deep into lives and circumstances of its principal subjects, but also into the world and times in which these men lived.  It was an age of scientific inventions that greatly impact our lives today, a world sliding toward the first world war,  a time of great interest in the supernatural world of seances, and a time when the wealthy went out of their way to flaunt their riches in extravagant ways.

In many ways, reading Larsen’s books are like stepping back into the past as you find yourself engaged in the triumphs and failures of men from that era.  However, this isn’t Larsen’s best work, go with one of his other two books before picking this one up.


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