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Thunderstruck

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3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  26,224 Ratings  ·  3,225 Reviews
A true story of love, murder, and the end of the world’s “great hush”

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—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian Lond
...more
Audio, 0 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by Random House Audio (first published 2006)
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Mandyhello According to this article (referenced near the bottom) her answer was "Yes I would": http://www.drcrippen.co.uk/whoswho/et...
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Will Byrnes
First off, while this is an interesting and engaging story, it is not the top-notch book that Devil in the White City was. Here, Larson tells parallel tales of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless, and Hawley Crippen, a relative nobody who gained infamy by doing away with his wife. Where they intersect is when the new-fangled wireless machine is used to track the fleeing killer and his mistress as they cross the Atlantic in a passenger liner. Larson is excellent at imparting a sense of a ...more
Adrienne
Nov 10, 2007 Adrienne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed parts of Thunderstruck and really had to force myself through others. The chapters about Marconi were often boring and too technical for my non-scientific mind. Larson sort of expects his reader to already understand certain elements of how radio waves works, which I don't. However, when Larson wasn't droning on about building towers and antennae, Marconi's story still captured my attention. (I'm sure more scientific minded people would enjoy the aspects that I didn't.)

In the end, I e
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Mara
In classic Erik Larson style, Thunderstruck is told through parallel lives and events. In this case, more so than in The Devil in the White City, it's not immediately evident how the elements will come to intertwine.

Guglielmo Marconi (below) was smart, contributed to society in the end, blah, blah, blah, but he was also kind of a jerk (that's my opinion, not expressly stated in the book). Larson chalks it up to a lack of social skills, which may be true, but it doesn't mean I have to forgive h
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Dale
Mar 14, 2008 Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a certain style of storytelling which I have an affinity for, both in terms of telling stories myself and listening to them (or reading them). The style, in a word, would be called "digressive". I know this style doesn't work for everyone, but it works for me. I like talking about or hearing about the little things that don't necessarily advance the plot or aren't crucial to understanding the point of something. As long as the digressions are interesting in and of themselves, I think the ...more
Teresa Lukey
This one turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for me. I loved The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America and was expecting something similar here.

Unfortunately, I was so weighed down in details of Marconi and his electrical engineering project, I could barely keep my head above water. There was simply too much detail when describing Marconi's work towards engineering wireless. Although an electrical engineer or any person interested in early c
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Jane
Apr 23, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where I got the book: purchased from my local indie bookstore at an author event*. Signed with a funny drawing!

Like The Devil in the White City, Thunderstruck tells two stories that have a meeting point. In this case, it's the (at the time) notorious case of Dr. Crippen, who murdered his wife, embraced by the larger story of the development of the wireless telegraph. It was wireless that enabled the British police to catch Crippen and his lover Ethel Le Neve, who were on a ship bound for Canada-
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Xysea
Oct 31, 2007 Xysea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical non fiction lovers, students of human nature
Well, he's gone and done it again! Another brilliant, engrossing true-life novel, completely with two independent yet seamlessly interwoven story lines that he manages to treat equitably through and through.

This book is a compelling journey of one man into the annals of scientific history (Marconi) and another into the depths of criminality (Crippen). The stories tie together in the end, during Crippen's capture.

Neither story can be said to be particularly happy: Both men were irredeemably flawe
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Steven Peterson
Jan 28, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Erik Larson has done it again. His new "Thunderstruck" is another of his works that ties together separate narratives into a compelling story. His earlier "Devil in the White City" juxtaposes a serial murderer with the creation of the Chicago Columbian Exposition. The result is powerful.

This book takes a similar tack, juxtaposing Guglielmo Marconi's obsession to master wireless communication with the gentle, quiet Hawley Crippen's murder of his wife. The book begins by discussing the suspicions
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Jim
Jun 04, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In his typical style Erik Larson tells two parallel interwoven stories. The first is the story of Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless. The second is the story of Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, homeopathic doctor and one of the most notorious murderers in British history. The link? Dr. Crippen was the first suspect to be captured with the aid of wireless telegraphy.

I know that Marconi was a pioneer in wireless telegraphy. In this book I learned a lot about the man. From Larson's narrative it
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Tom Mulpagano
Jan 23, 2009 Tom Mulpagano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like history that reads like a thriller, then Thunderstruck should be on your list of books to read. Much like in Devil in the White City, Larson is able to weave an amazing amount of historical fact and detail into this fascinating story of murder and intrigue from the turn of the century. We take for granted today what was little understood and even less trusted as a viable means of communication then, in the form of radio transmission and communication. Larsen masterfully places his st ...more
Stacey L. Smith
After reading Devil in the White City (one of my favorite books of all time), I was very excited to read this book. I ended up disappointed. I really had to force my way through this book. There was too much about the invention and not enough about the murder. Devil in the White City was much more balanced. Although maybe it just felt that way because the world's fair chapters were just as interesting as the serial killer chapters.

Erik Larson is a great writer. I enjoy how he ties a famous even
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Julie
Oct 17, 2008 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With incredible deftness, Larson weaves together the stories of an Italian scientist and inventor and a British hack physician and hapless lover. The setting is Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time that saw Edwardian indulgences and a fascination with mysticism and magic dissolving before the advances in science, technology, and the inevitable march toward the first World War.

This book is a lesson in history, an examination of the business and politics of technology and inve
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Becky
Dec 06, 2013 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am waffling between three and four stars on this book. I haven’t read Devil in the White City, but I did read Garden of Beasts, and it doesn’t even quite stack up to that. It took a very long time to get into. The first half of the book wasn’t random information per se, because it still centered around Marconi and Crippen, but it really had nothing to do with the story that would eventually unfold. I suppose that we needed to know that Crippen had a younger, estranged son, that lived in Cali ...more
Liviu
Apr 23, 2015 Liviu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
very interesting - reads like fiction and compelling from page 1

adding a little more - with his nonfiction as fiction style the author has a very distinctive voice in the book world and I read a lot from a few of his novels, though I fully finished only In the Garden of the Beasts until this one - I expect that to change as the recent Lusitania book is also superb and I want to read the Chicago fair one before I go to the Milan Expo in July

this one was perfect reading on the plane back from Ital
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☕Laura
Dec 28, 2013 ☕Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erik Larson has a wonderful talent for developing the interest and intrigue in a story, and this book is no exception. The tale of mild-mannered-quack-turned-murderer Hawley Crippen and his unlikely marriage to the brazen Cora Turner is a case in which truth is stranger than fiction, from their improbable union through to its gruesome conclusion. Interweave this with the contemporaneous saga of Guglielmo Marconi's development of the wireless, which would ultimately contribute to Crippen's undoin ...more
Book Concierge
3.5***

Larson brings his talent for writing a page-turning non-fiction work to bear on the case of Dr H H Crippen, who was fleeing England with his mistress, after being questioned in the disappearance of his wife. An escape that would have been easily made just 5 years previously was foiled by the relatively new advance of the Marconi wireless, with which Scotland Yard detectives could communicate with their counterparts in Canada and the U.S., and with the ship’s captain. The result is that th
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Trilby
Larson has a gift for making history seem stranger than fiction, but then again, history often is. Although the story is full of dates, facts, and details, it easily holds the reader's attention--that is, most of the time. At some points, however, usually those involving scientists squabbling and griping about each other, I found myself skimming ahead. The book traces the marriages and fortunes of two men, Guglielmo Marconi and Dr. Crippen, a murderer made world-infamous by Marconi's invention, ...more
Bobscopatz
Jan 26, 2013 Bobscopatz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my third of Larson's books in as many weeks. I liked it the best of the three and thus awarded one extra star. It is well written as usual. What gives this one an added value for me is that it has such compelling material to draw from, and especially that the interwoven plots actually intersect meaningfully--well beyond the mere coincidences that provide the impetus for the story of the Columbian Exposition. I think Larson really nailed it this time, taking his speciality of interesting ...more
Ricardo
Thunderstruck, written by Erik Larson, tells the story of two men--Hawley Crippen, a hopeless romantic who falls in love with a woman that craves the thrill of trouble; and Guglielmo Marconi, a scientist researching means of communication who strays away from normality and attempts methods pertaining to the supernatural. This book is set in a seemingly large ship, the S.S. Montrose in 1910, when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners. Racing against time, Ma ...more
Richard Derus
It's an axiom that Great Men (and, one supposes, Great Women) are Unpleasant People. Larson's treatment of Guglielmo Marconi, great-great-great grandfather of the device you're reading this on, does nothing to dispel the miasma of meanness from him. What a rotten human being! How completely insensitive, how thoroughly obsessively devoted to his own self and comfort, what a complete rotter of a businessman!

Thank you, Guglielmo, for the gifts all that human wreckage you left behind have given us a
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Tasha
Sep 15, 2016 Tasha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-reads
Not one of my favorites by this author but I do admit to having really very little interest in the Marconi part of the story. His part of the story was too technical for most of the time, it just did not interest me at all. Crippen's side of the story was definitely more interesting and probably would have been more so had I not read Crippen this year as well.
Ladiibbug
Sep 24, 2009 Ladiibbug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Non-Fiction - 4.5 stars

From Book Jacket:

"... tells the interwoven stories of two men -- Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of seemingly supernatural means of communication -- whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time."

I enjoyed this book very much. The story track of Marconi and his pursuit of making wireless telegraph a reality was interesting, even for a non-scientific person like me. By 2/3 through the book
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Bree
It's not a biography per se and it's not a memoir...but I had to stick in as a pseudo-something, since it reads more like fiction...which would have been a good thing if the writing had been better. The premise of this book is fantastic...the trans atlantic telegraph is in its infancy...untested really when it's used to track a killer across the ocean. Sounds cool, could be cool...but all I really wanted to do was read about Crippen. THAT is the interesting story. Marconi not so much. I felt lik ...more
Kay
Much like The Devil in the White City, this is a bifurcated tale of two very different men whose lives intersect in an offbeat way. Larson relies a good deal on the reader's intelligence and patience -- and I liked that. Things unfold slowly, but for a reason. And, as with his previous bestseller, the main characters are fully fleshed and flawed.

One character is a murderer -- not as depraved as the killer in The Devil in the White City, by any means, but a murderer nonetheless. I felt quite sym
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Nancy Petralia
Jul 16, 2013 Nancy Petralia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Larson's Devil in the White City and Larson used the same convention here--parallel stories of technology and murder. His first subject is Italian inventor Marconi who proved the viability of wireless communication. His murderer is an unassuming and well-regarded Londoner named Crippin.

In the Forward, Larsen apologizes for his tendency to digress. It's most apparent in the Marconi story where I sometimes got bored with the repeated attempts and details of all the competitors trying to b
...more
Loraine
Aug 11, 2013 Loraine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Non-fiction that reads like a novel, this one picked me up and took me on a wild ride, never letting me down. Shifting between the two narratives was at times frustrating only because I was so caught up in each story. I really had a hard time putting it down.
The depth of detail brought me right into the time period, a time before planes, radar, internet or cellphones. Each story on its own was interesting but together they are genius. Every page is jam-packed, interesting, wonderfully put togeth
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Stefanie
May 05, 2009 Stefanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was definitely a struggle for me to get through. But I don't like to leave things undone and I like to finish what I start, so I MADE myself finish this book, even though I wanted to shoot myself in the face while reading it. The sections on wireless technology were so incredibly boring, but the parts about murder were interesting. Like his last book I read, Devil in the White City, I was left wanting more info/story on the murderous parts. Which makes me think either a) I'm a sadist, b)mur ...more
Melissa
Sep 08, 2007 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jeff, bruce
This was very interesting. It's a non-fiction book about the famous Crippen murder in England, how wireless communication came about, and how these two events connected somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean. I didn't know about the Crippen murder until I read this book, which I thought was a good thing, it added a bit more suspense to the book. Apparently, it is the second most famous murder in Britain, after Jack the Ripper. It did take me awhile to get into this book, about halfway through I was rea ...more
Karen Baerkircher
Sep 09, 2009 Karen Baerkircher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very like the author's earlier book that I liked so much, "Devil in the White City." Again he tells parallel stories--one of a determined dreamer overcoming obstacles and another of an unlikely criminal. I would never have thought I could become interested in, much less fascinated by, Marconi's scientific adavances. Larson provides details of people, places and events that bring history to life.

I'm not sure why this book didn't resonate with me quite as much as the earlier one. It m
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Josh
Feb 27, 2016 Josh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I hate the Goodreads star system. It occasionally forces me to rate books a notch lower than I would like to; nonetheless, 2 stars= "It was OK". I am typically caught up in this author's style, subjects, and can flip from one story to the next with ease. This one misses that mark although the dual narrative account of a non-fiction book are still weaved together to read more like a novel than most subject focused books. Do NOT let that deter you from reading either this book or anything else he ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #161 Thunderstruck by Erik Larson 1 3 Nov 14, 2016 02:44PM  
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Erik Larson, author of the international bestseller Isaac's Storm, was nominated for a National Book Award for The Devil in the White City, which also won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing. His latest book, In the Garden of Beasts: Love Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, has been acquired for publication in 20 countries and optioned by Tom Hanks for a feature film. Erik is a for ...more
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“One night, during a storm, an engineer named W. W. Bradfield was sitting at the Wimereux transmitter, when suddenly the door to the room crashed open. In the portal stood a man disheveled by the storm and apparently experiencing some form of internal agony. He blamed the transmissions and shouted that they must stop. The revolver in his hand imparted a certain added gravity. Bradfield responded with the calm of a watchmaker. He told the intruder he understood his problem and that his experience was not unusual. He was in luck, however, Bradfield said, for he had “come to the only man alive who could cure him.” This would require an “electrical inoculation,” after which, Bradfield promised, he “would be immune to electro-magnetic waves for the rest of his life.” The man consented. Bradfield instructed him that for his own safety he must first remove from his person anything made of metal, including coins, timepieces, and of course the revolver in his hand. The intruder obliged, at which point Bradfield gave him a potent electrical shock, not so powerful as to kill him, but certainly enough to command his attention. The man left, convinced that he was indeed cured.” 1 likes
“At night thunderstorms arose often, shedding lightning that gave the terrain the pallor of a corpse. Fog would settle in for days, causing the edge of the cliff to look like the edge of the material world. At regular intervals the men heard the lost-calf moan of foghorns as steamships waited offshore for clarity.” 1 likes
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