Thursday, June 9, 2011


By Erik Larson

I have looked at books by Erik Larson before, the covers always intrigue me.  I finally decided it was time to give one a go.  I chose Thunderstruck, which intertwines the history of wireless telegraphy with a story of murder.  It all sounded very interesting and, in fact, was.  But drawn out and boring and little connects the two stories until the very end. 

Indeed.  Through much of the book, jumping between stories, they are not even in the same year.

The history of wireless communication is told in regard to the inventor, Marconi.  Although he didn't discover or invent all the technology involved, he was instrumental in refining the technology and pushing the limits of how far wireless communications could be sent or received.  Although interesting, the story mired down in the the details of his protagonists, his travels abroad and back for experiments, and his single minded obsession with secrecy.  Far too much detail and too little meat. 

The tale of Doctor Crippen's murder of his wife was also slow but more entertaining in its telling than the telegraphy account.  Toward the end of the book when the British detectives begin to realize that Dr. Crippen really was capable of killing his wife and discover the evidence they need to prove it, may have been the most interesting section of the book.  Although morbid, I found it a fascinating contradiction to the man described up to that point. 

Where the history of telegraphy and Dr. Crippen's crime intersect is during Dr. Crippen's attempted escape at sea.  Prior to the wireless, discovery of a fugitive at sea could not have been relayed to shore, and no authorities dispatched to take the fugitive into custody upon arriving in port.  The wireless became largely responsible for Dr. Crippen's capture. 

I was not thrilled with this book.  I give it 2 of 5 shots.  However, I am not dissuaded from giving another Erik Larson book a try. 

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