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3.67  ·  Rating details ·  27,967 Ratings  ·  3,400 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 Lo
Audio CD, library edition, 12 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by Books on Tape (first published 2006)
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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
Oct 06, 2007 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
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
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 read this b
Jan 25, 2008 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
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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-
Taryn Pierson
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 experiments, b
Kealan Burke
Nov 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Larson is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers. The Devil in the White City, Dead Wake, and now Thunderstruck, serve as prime examples of compelling narrative nonfiction.
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 narrative it
Oct 31, 2007 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
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
Steven Peterson
Jan 28, 2010 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
May 28, 2013 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
Apr 22, 2015 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
Julie Christine
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
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
Book Concierge

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
Tom Mulpagano
Jan 23, 2009 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
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
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
Mar 12, 2009 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
Feb 15, 2016 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
Oscar Lion
Jul 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wise
Larson has a way with writing. He smartly alternates individual stories and universal history. We get to know Guglielmo Marconi, the man who invented the radio, and the hurdles he had to overcome in order to promote his technology, one of them being his own temper. While competition in the new telecommunications industry gets tougher, the reader follows a criminal case: the murder of a common, if well described, woman. A true crime novel, a business strategy handbook, and a delightful piece of h ...more
Aug 07, 2013 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
Sep 15, 2016 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.
Aug 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Not as good as "the Devil in a white City". Parallel tales about Marconi and Hawley Crippen, whom I had never heard of before. I found some of the Marconi parts boring and I still don't know how electromagnetic waves work. I'm with the "magic" crowd. The Crippen story was interesting. I sympathized with poor guy. Did wonder why we were left hanging with Ethel's answer though.
Jun 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This nonfiction title cleverly combines the work of Marconi and the story of a famous turn of the century murder. The murderer was caught thanks to the new ability to contact ships at sea. I liked it but found the detail overwhelming. At first, I read carefully thinking some of those details might be important later but then realized I could speed read the book.
I didn't find this story as engaging as Larson's others. There was too much diverse and disconnected information included in the story and the two stories weren't "zipped" together as neatly as his other stories were. I was listening to it on audio and felt like I should have been nearing the end when I was still at the beginning...
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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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