Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on April 28, 2018
This is the fourth book by Erik Larson that I have read. I found Thunderstruck well written but less captivating than Devil in the White City and Dead Wake. Actually, I ended up abandoning it for 5 months after reading the first 100 pages, but eventually I forced myself to finish reading it.

The format is a lot like Devil in the White City – In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson flips back and forth between the story of how Marconi developed long distance radio in the early 1900s and the story of the London Cellar murderer Hawley Crippen in 1910.

I found the entire Marconi story much less interesting than the Crippen murder, and part of the reason why I abandoned the book part way through was because it was a slog to get through the Marconi parts. The development of long distance radio has the potential to be an interesting topic, but the struggles of Marconi (downed antenna, storms, funding problems, relationship problems, etc.) was tedious to read through. The pacing finally picked up in the last half of the book, and I found myself unable to put the book down once Belle (Crippen’s wife) disappeared. Larson does an excellent job using the lifestyle of Crippen and his wife Belle to describe London in the early 1900s. The disappearance of Belle results in a behind-the-scenes look at how the police investigation took place, intertwines Marconi’s story with Crippen, and leads to a captivating cross-Atlantic hunt for a murderer (but luckily a lot less disturbing than H.H. Holmes’s mad dash across the U.S.). This last part of the book is some of Erik Larson’s best writing.

Overall, I was surprised at how much I liked the second half of the book and would recommend the book if you are a fan of Devil in the White City (just be prepared for a lackluster beginning).
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