December 03, 2008

Books: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

With Thunderstruck, Erik Larson delivers a very readable book, weaving together the stories of two very different famous names from the early twentieth century. On the one hand there is the story of Guglielmo Marconi and his dogged pursuit of perfecting wireless telegraphy. We follow his life from his youth and solo experimentation in Italy through to his days as an inventor and entrepreneur in Britain. While on the other we have the story of Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen, one of the most well-known murderers of the Edwardian age.

Larson has researched the book meticulously and delivers a gripping narrative that is as entertaining as any thriller you may care to pick up. He also manages to successfully evoke the mood of the age, so you feel as though you've been transported back in time as you read.

There is drama and disappointment as Marconi battles to find a way to send messages across the Atlantic in order to get an edge over his competitors, and at the same time the tension slowly builds as Crippen's story unfolds leading to the world famous murder. What brings the two seemingly disparate stories together is how Marconi's invention was used in the pursuit of the murderer. Superb stuff.

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