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Thunderstruck Paperback – September 25, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (September 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400080673
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400080670
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (441 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Larson's new suspense-spiked history links Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of wireless telegraphy, with Hawley Crippen, a mild-mannered homeopathic doctor in turn-of-the-century London. While Larson tells their stories side by side, most listeners will struggle to find a reason for connecting the two men other than that both lived around the same time and that Goldwyn's plummy voice narrates their lives. Only on the final disc does the logic behind the intertwining of the stories become apparent and the tale gain speed. At this point, the chief inspector of Scotland Yard sets out after Crippen on a transatlantic chase, spurred by the suspicion that he committed a gruesome murder. Larson's account of the iconoclastic Marconi's quest to prove his new technology is less than engaging and Crippen's life before the manhunt was tame. Without a very compelling cast to entertain during Larson's slow, careful buildup, many listeners may not make it to the breathless final third of the book when it finally come alive.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Larson's page-turner juxtaposes scientific intrigue with a notorious murder in London at the turn of the 20th century. It alternates the story of Marconi's quest for the first wireless transatlantic communication amid scientific jealousies and controversies with the tale of a mild-mannered murderer caught as a result of the invention. The eccentric figures include the secretive Marconi and one of his rivals, physicist Oliver Lodge, who believed that he was first to make the discovery, but also insisted that the electromagnetic waves he studied were evidence of the paranormal. The parallel tale recounts the story of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, accused of murdering his volatile, shrewish wife. As he and his unsuspecting lover attempted to escape in disguise to Quebec on a luxury ocean liner, a Scotland Yard detective chased them on a faster boat. Unbeknownst to the couple, the world followed the pursuit through wireless transmissions to newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic. A public that had been skeptical of this technology suddenly grasped its power. In an era when wireless has a whole new connotation, young adults interested in the history of scientific discovery will be enthralled with this fascinating account of Marconi and his colleagues' attempts to harness a new technology. And those who enjoy a good mystery will find the unraveling of Dr. Crippen's crime, complete with turn-of-the-century forensics, appealing to the CSI crowd. A thrilling read.–Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Erik Larson is a writer, journalist and novelist. Nominated for a Pulitzer prize for investigative journalism on The Wall Street Journal, he has taught non-fiction writing at San Francisco State and Johns Hopkins.

Customer Reviews

I was bored to death for the first 80 pages, at one time thinking I wouldn't even finish the book.
Picky Buyer
He has a way of drawing the reader into the story, into the minds of his characters, who just happened to be real people.
L. Mountford
The book is about Marconi and his invention of wireless and about Dr. Crippen who murdered his wife.
E. J. T.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

399 of 414 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on October 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I so enjoyed The Devil in the White City, a book I read without any awareness of its historical importance. I've waited with aniticpation Larson's next book, but this time I came to it with some expectation. Thunderstruck doesn't disappoint.

If you're looking for a quick and unsubstantial book, Thunderstruct isn't for you. I can even anticipate that some reviewers will nail Larson for the incredible amount of detail he provides, especially in those chapters dealing with Marconi. However, this is Larson's manner and in the end you're glad he provided the indepth treatment.

Thunderstruck, like The Devil in the While City, tells two stories that are inevitably intertwined. First, is Guglielmo Marconi's search for "wireless" telecommunication. Marconi wasn't a scientist. He simply had an idea. With his rudimentary understanding of electromagnetism he believed it possible to communicate over long distances without wires. He was a plodder in the best traditions of Edison. He was, of course successful.

The second story deals with Dr. H. H. Crippen and the murder of his wife, Belle. Demanding, apparently unfaithful (though the Dr. appears to have gotten around a bit), and used to spending large sums of money they couldn't afford, Belle was a weight around Crippens neck. Along with his innocent lover and secretary, Ethel, he flees but is ultimately thwarted by Marconi's invention and a crackerjack Scotland Yard detective. The trans-Atlantic chase, reported via "wireless" communication kept the world's attention. Indeed, the only two people who didn't know they were being chased were the lovers.

Written in Larson's uncompromising style using original sources, Thunderstruck is a wonderful vision into the early years of the twentieth century when technology promised a new world. The story is engaging, well written, organized. Larson is a master storyteller.

Read the book. You'll love it.
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139 of 146 people found the following review helpful By John C. Wiegard VINE VOICE on October 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is two stories in one. The story of how Marconi struggled to popularize and refine radio technology by trial and error is fascinating, and the story of how mild mannered Harley Crippen became a famous criminal is nearly as interesting, and then the stories merge in a weird but memorable way. And every bit of it is true.

I have to say that Larson puts it all together beautifully. He feeds you the perfect detail at the right time. It's not so much a true crime tale as it is a tale of human nature. It has a certain inevitability without ever boring you. I bet this one will spend a long time on the bestseller list, just like Devil in the White City (his previous book) did.
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141 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Niksic VINE VOICE on February 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed half of "Thunderstruck," but the other half of the book was a real dud.

Erik Larson is one of several popular authors whose books always follow the same basic formula. In Larson's case, his books are divided into two separate plots that focus on different characters whose lives ultimately collide in an unexpected way. Also, half of Larson's book generally involve a very detailed process of some sort, while the other half revolves around a crime. When I read "The Devil in the White City," I enjoyed reading all the meticulous details about the planning and architecture of Chicago's World's Fair. However, I don't have a strong interest in science, so the entire portion of "Thunderstruck" devoted to Marconi's development of wireless communication was incredibly dull to me. I'm sure science buffs will find it much more enjoyable, but I thought that pages and pages devoted to things like the types of metals Marconi used to build antennas were incredibly dry and tedious.

However, I really enjoyed the portion of "Thunderstruck" that revolved around the Crippen murder. Those chapters were much more intriguing than the Marconi parts, and I thought Larson did an excellent job of setting up the story. Also, I enjoyed the final chapters of the book where the Marconi/Crippen stories finally overlap. This book is based on actual events that I didn't know much about, and I'm eager to learn more about the Crippen case. (I won't be doing more research on Marconi, though...I'll leave that to the science students out there.)

Overall, Larson is a pretty good storyteller. However, I personally only enjoyed about 50% of this book. I doubt most people will really get into the Marconi chapters unless they have a strong interest in the history and development of scientific processes.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Peter Thomas Senese - Author. on October 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of the historical thriller, and have tendency to take my time enjoyably absorbing true information and fact presented in good fiction writing. I am of the opinion that the task of a fiction writer to educate and entertain is more difficult than a non-fiction writer. This said, `Thunderstruck' by Erik Larson was a complete read that left me fully satiated on all levels: Larson's writing style was easy and absorbing; the character development, particularly of Guglielmo Marconi (inventor or wireless telecommunication technology) and Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen (The "North London Cellar Murderer") entertaining, consistent, and engaging; the use of historical data and fact to drive the story and remarkably make a story that occurred nearly a century ago relevant and current to today's world, superbly and interestingly executed; and finally, a plot of two that meet head on and merge into one fascinating spin: Marconi's `throw it at the wall' attempt and success to create a wireless communication system, and a murderer attempting to flee England to Canada after killing his treacherous wife who unknowingly has the entire world following his escapades of escape due to Marconi's newly created technology!

Very rare is it that two working plots in past historical fiction can run concurrently with a sense of edge of interests that they do not take away from each other or the story as a whole. Historical dual-plot prose' have been the death of many books. Erik Larson's 'Thunderstruck' is one of those rare exemplary stories executed with a forceful yet delicate balance of writing style that demonstrates why, if done right, dual-thematic historical fiction writing can produce stellar fiction.
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