Iain Harley's Reviews > Thunderstruck

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
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Jun 21, 11

Read from May 27 to June 20, 2011

What is it about historical crime that is so interesting? Is it that criminals were more brazen because of a lack of forensic science? What ever it is, Erik Larson and historical crime are 2 for 2 in my book. His first book that I read, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America was a book that I didn't think I'd like much back in 2003, but ended up not being able to put it down. Thunderstruck is pretty much the same. It follows two seemingly unrelated story lines to a dramatic, and if you didn't Google the characters prior to reading the book, surprising finish.

The book moves slowly at first, and I was left wondering where this was going. I think this has to be the first book I've read this year where I had no idea what it was about. We're given the history of the invention of the wireless telegraph and the man (kid really) behind it. We follow the life of a fairly ordinary if not boring couple as they move from America to England during the late 1800's and early 1900's and all along left wonder what could the 2 possibly have in common?

Well the couple are the focus of a murder shocking that it immediately draws similarities to another well known murderer from London, Jack the Ripper. The victim was the wife of the couple, who the author and history, have painted to be not the best wife in the world, and the suspected murderer is the quite, good natured husband. The guy everyone likes and can't believe he was capable of such a deed. The two story lines converge in the last 50 pages or so as one man's invention proved to be crucial in making an arrest. Whether or not the crime is truly solved is a matter of debate to this day.

The book starts off slow with lots of back story of both the couple and the inventor. You will come away from the book very knowledgeable of early wireless telegraph systems, which is kind of neat when you consider how easy it is today to pick up a cell phone to place a call to anywhere in the world. Larson does a very good job in transporting us back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries of London, though the books has multiple destinations in North America and Italy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, and am already looking forward to starting his next book Isaac's Storm which isn't a history crime but a historic tragedy.

Thunderstruck
Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
Erik Larson
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