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3.70  ·  Rating details ·  34,216 ratings  ·  3,942 reviews
The interwoven stories of two men whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time - Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication.

A true story of love, murder, and the end of the world’s “great hush”

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the in
Hardcover, 463 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  34,216 ratings  ·  3,942 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Apr 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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 time ...more
Oct 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
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 him for it.
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 him for it.
Guglielmo Marconi

It would still be a few more decades before Robert Merton would outline his "norms" of modern science, but in the face of a spiritualism frenzy, "real" scientists were trying to distinguish the components of, well, "good" science. Marconi (an entrepreneur, more so than he was a scientist, which he, ironically, noted in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Physics) was not on board with key components of this like communality and letting skeptics in on the experiments.

On the other side of town (or the ocean, depending on the day), our second story line involves a homeopath, an aspiring actress/singer (lacking in the skill department - think American Idol outtakes), and, of course, a mistress.
Dr. Hawley H. Crippen

If Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen were a woman and/or late 19th-century jurists had access to the Law & Order franchise, we might think his was a case of battered wife syndrome (in these PC days, "battered person syndrome"). I feel like just looking at the pictures of Crippen (above) and his wife,Corrine "Cora" Turner/Belle Elmore (below) you might get a sense of what a truly terrible match theirs was.
Cora Crippen

The details of how this all plays out are intriguing, and involve plenty of deceit, betrayal and a dash of 19th century detectivery and forensic science.

Skipping ahead, the story lines converge when Dr. Crippen and his mistress, Ethel Le Neve (below), take to the seas- in this instance, dressed as father and son. (Le Neve really should have seen bad things coming at this point, being asked by your lover to dress as a little boy should always be a deal-breaker!)

Ethel Le Neve

Without giving away too much, the SS Montrose essentially becomes the "white Bronco" of this whole affair, and (here comes the Marconi tie in), thanks to the advances in science, this was basically the first instance of live tweeting the hunt for a murderer on the run. The public appetite for this type of thing, it would seem, has always been high- so this was pretty much the best publicity Marconi could have ever hoped for.
Crippen Le Neve Arrest

I would give this more stars if it weren't Larson, who I know can (and does) do better. It's worth reading, I just wouldn't put it up there with his more recent books.

Bonus Archer reference:

"Thanks Guglielmo Marconi...who I think invented the radio."

Thanks Guglielmo Marconi Archer Thanks Guglielmo Marconi Archer Thanks Guglielmo Marconi Archer Thanks Guglielmo Marconi Archer
The Author's Note says that the murder case in this book so captivated Alfred Hitchcock that he worked elements of it into Rear Window (and The Rope). Rear Window is probably my favorite movie of all time, so I had to find out which elements he was referring to. This is why I wanted to read this book and have had a copy for a couple of years now.

Larson incorporates via alternating chapters the story of Marconi's creation of the telegraph, and therein lies my excuse for NOT wanting to
Jan 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, true-crime
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 communic
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Thunderstruck, by Erik Larson is a non fiction account of the infamous murder of Belle Elmore by her husband, Hawley Crippen, and the story of Guglielmo Marconi,the inventor of wireless telegraphy. The story of both men was riveting. Marconi was obsessive about his work, probably had Aspergers syndrome. He battles it out with competitors over patents and rights. It was like a soap opera sometimes, all the accusations, and back biting. The details behind the invention was also very interesting. T ...more
Taryn Pierson
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
This is a book about the invention of wireless telegraphy. As if he knew this wasn’t the sexiest of topics, author Erik Larson includes a murder mystery alongside it, creating a fun little two-for-the-price-of-one non-fiction treat. He lures you in with relationship drama and then works in the science. So sneaky! And once the two distinct stories come together, so delicious.

I can see how some readers would be less than enthused about the more technical details of Marconi’s science ex
Sep 05, 2012 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--Cripp
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Would have liked more about the murder trial than how to build a radio station
Richard Derus
Oct 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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 hav
Julie Christine
Oct 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2016 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 narrati
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This didn't move quickly only because I've had a bit less time to read in the last week. Although it isn't as compelling as either his The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America or Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, this is an interesting story. From the beginning, we understand why Larson chose to tell these stories in the same volume. The juxtaposition of an entirely new technology - one unimaginable to most - and that of the police tracking down the pe ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Actual rating about 3.5 stars.

This is probably not quite as strong as Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, but is pretty good.
Laura Noggle
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction, 2018
At times this book was creepy and long in the tooth, by the end however, Larson wrapped up all the threads into a tidy tale.

The last third quarter was exceptionally entertaining, bringing up the overall score to a solid four stars.

History is sparkling with untold stories, and Larson has quite the knack for illuminating them.

[Still, this book is not quite as good as Devil in the White City and Dead Wake.]
Steven Peterson
Jan 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Oct 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Properly shocked that I'm not finishing a Larson, and maybe I'll come back to this, but I'm bored. I haven't found any of his subsequent books I read since Dead Wake very good, that one was so riveting. Returning this to the library and wishing the next listener good luck.
Erik Graff
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Larson or Marconi fans
Recommended to Erik by: Heirloom Books
Shelves: history
I've read three of Larson's books now, enjoying each of them but most particularly this one and Devil in the White City, both of which interweave tales told in short, often cliff-hanging, chapters--an effective means of capturing the reader's attention. Part murder mystery, part early history of radio, it's a real page turner.
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Erik Larson is an amazing storyteller. He is able to take two very separate historical events and combine them into one fantastic story. It is truth, real life captured in a way that reads like fiction. In Thunderstruck, he chronicles the life of Guglielmo Marconi, a pioneering inventor of radio telegraphy and the life of convicted murderer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen. Very separate people, very separate lives, but there is a point where the product of their lives converge.

Loved the stories, love
Sue K H
Jul 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Erick Larson is great at making true stories read like fiction. This book weaves two stories, one of a socialite murdered and the other of the invention of the wireless telegraph. Both stories are rich with period details. I loved each story on it's own but it was fascinating how they came together.
Caitlin Cramer
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This book came into my life at a bad time. Had I read it 3 years ago, I would have enjoyed it more and rated it higher. I’m not going to completely trash it - Erik Larson is a good story teller with an eye for period detail and a host of well-deployed anecdotes from Edwardian English history.

Let me try to explain my problem with this book if you can tolerate spoilers.

The novel weaves the tangentially related stories of credited wireless telegraphy inventor Guglielmo Marconi and murd
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, recommend
I really enjoyed this book. It's basically two stories that eventually come together in an interesting way.

Guglielmo Marconi is a young Italian man who becomes fascinated with wireless communication and through instincts, not scientific knowledge, creates a wireless transmitter that can span the Atlantic Ocean.

Hawley Crippen is a doctor and seller of so called "miracle potions" whose home life is a shambles. His wife, Belle is a failed aspiring opera singer, failed variety performer
Warren Benton
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
As with most of Larson's books, he takes 2 unrelated stories and shows how they were weaved together.  This is the story of Guglielmo Marconi and Dr. Crippen.  Marconi was busy building a wireless transmission empire.  Crippen was unhappily married and in love with his typist.  The book covers a lot of Marconi building bigger more powerful towers, he was having trouble staying ahead of the push by other inventors who were also trying to unveil the magic of going wireless.  Having read a few book ...more
Dec 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
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Erik Larson’s latest work of narrative nonfiction is DEAD WAKE: THE LAST CROSSING OF THE LUSITANIA, which became an immediate New York Times bestseller. His saga of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing, and lingered on various NYT best-seller lists for the better part of a decade. Hu ...more
“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.” 2 likes
“British currency was configured in pounds, shillings, and pence. One pound equaled twenty shillings, written as 20 s., which in turn equaled 240 pence, or 240 d. A new pound is equal to 100 pennies, with one penny equal to 2.4 of the obsolete pence.)” 2 likes
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