Twobusy's Reviews > Thunderstruck

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
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May 22, 12

Read on May 22, 2012

Considering how much I'd enjoyed two of Larson's earlier books - Isaac's Storm and the completely wonderful Devil in the White City - it took me a hell of a long time to get around to reading Thunderstruck. Honestly, there was a pretty good layer of dust sitting on the jacket when I finally picked it up and went to work a couple of weeks ago. Why? Because, for no reason I can really explain, I was afraid I'd find it kind of dull.

Unfortunately, it turns out my apprehension was well-justified. I can certainly understand why Larson was attracted to the subject matter: he parallels Marconi's invention of radio with the then-sensational Crippen "Basement Murder" in London, and how the two intersected in the mid-Atlantic, as Crippen attempted to flee to America. Which sounds interesting, right? Wrong. The Marconi storyline is extremely well-researched, and Larson does his best to bring it to life, but ultimately it comes across as something that is clearly far more important than it is actually interesting. Marconi himself: smart, driven, not a nice guy, and not a terribly compelling subject. And Crippen? Who killed his harpy wife and fled the UK with his secretary/lover? Is a cypher... a man universally described (as is clear through Larson's impeccable research) as a small, quiet, listless little creature. And while I spent the entirety of the book hoping for a revelation in which we come to understand how such a non-entity came to commit such a strange and gruesome murder, I came away frustrated -- as no such revelation ever appears. Larson (like the police) knows Crippen did it, but we never really understand how (functionally) or why (in a character-motivation sense).

In the end, I found myself wishing that I'd left the book collecting dust. Very disappointing.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Karen (new)

Karen That's too bad. I just picked up Devil in the White City; can't wait to dig into it.

Twobusy Devil in the White City is fantastic — don't be dissuaded by this exercise in tedium.

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