Review Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Review tbyel Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishing/Random House 2006, 399 pages

MOTIVATION FOR READING: I bought this for my Dad for Christmas and got it back after he and Mom read it.    I enjoy nonfiction.    And I do believe I can count this for the Science Challenge:   Inventions, Telegraphy, Forensics.    It’s not all that heavy – ok, it’s very light, in fact – on technology jargon.    Still, I don’t think I followed much of the explanations of Marconi’s work.   Honestly, he just seemed to succeed by trial and error and didn’t really care about the HOW and WHY his invention worked.   He was just damned persistent that it WOULD work.

WHAT IT’s ABOUT: A tale of murder and how technology was applied specifically to the capture of the murderer.     Rather, how this one event unexpectedly highlighted how useful this technology was going to be.     I get the idea that it is the author’s original idea to link these events.     Larson goes back and forth between the lives of the murder victim and the murderer and how Marconi figures out how to send wireless telegrams, eventually providing a play by play of how the murderer was arrested in as the world discovers how exciting this wireless stuff can be for real-time communication over many miles and across the ocean.

WHAT’s GOOD: My favorite part of history written almost in novel form,  fast-paced and action-packed, is that THIS REALLY HAPPENED!     I love when history comes alive.     As they say, “you can’t make this stuff up.”     The murder and the circumstances are bizarre and still begs the question of HOW did this guy manage this crime?     Larson does an amazing job of including documented conversations and filling in the gaps with interesting narrative.     I also enjoy reading through the bibliography;  Larson includes anecdotes that didn’t make the text but are still interesting.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD: On the other hand, I didn’t like the jump in time frames.    It is easy to get caught up and then get lost in what happened when.     The crime sections cover a shorter time frame than the wireless technology development so on one story line we jump months and in the other one we jump years.

I also found myself in serious dislike of Marconi and how he treated his wife which unfortunately had me thinking negatively about the whole book at times.      I read this on the flight back from Phoenix and I kept interrupting my husband’s reading (of fishing magazines) to tell him how much I didn’t like Marconi.   He kept asking me, “So, what?”    We also got into a disagreement about the museum or Historical Site or whatever it is on Cape Cod, so now we have to go check that out so I can prove I’m right.

Marconi Beach, Wellfleet Mass
Marconi Beach, Wellfleet Mass

FINAL THOUGHTs: I enjoyed this book but I think I had too high of expectations for it.    Three pieces of pie.  pieratingsml I’m still looking forward to reading another Larson book, The Devil in the White City.

10 thoughts on “Review Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

  1. Devil in the White City doesn’t jump around in time, and the serial killer chapters are really interesting. I think you’ll like it. I predict four pieces of pie. 😀

  2. I also would forget this was fiction as I was reading it. In fact, had it been fiction I probably wouldn’t have bought the end! 🙂


  3. How cool! I have Devil in the White City and I’ve been meaning to read it for ages – I hear such good things about Larson’s writing.

    I don’t yet have it but have been eyeing it for ages.

  4. Hmmm…the time jumping might bug me too, but still I think I might have to give this a go someday. Sounds pretty fascinating. I’ve got Devil in the White City on my shelves waiting to be read too…you know, along with the 6,085 books sitting there suffering from neglect.

  5. I can’t remember what I’m supposed to say when I have nothing to say but enjoyed your review. What was the word? Not slartybartfast or snippypoopoo or slingydoodle. Shoot, I just can’t remember but . . . you know what I mean. 🙂

  6. I LOVE Erik Larsen’s work. Devil in the White City is better than Thuderstruck, I think, so hopefully you’ll like it more. You should also check out John Berendt. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is about a real-life murder in Savannah, GA, and City of Falling Angels is about a mystery in Venice. I think it was a fire, but to be perfectly honest, the setting and characters appealed to me more than the story. 🙂 Both are excellent novels, though, and based on true stories.

  7. I love watching “New Detectives” and “FBI Files” on the Discovery channel. This book seems kind of similar to me. But I would prefer watching something like this rather than reading it.

    This would make a pretty good drama but I expect it would be on the History Channel. But what do I know.

  8. I am looking forward to Devil In The White City – it’s on one of my many to-read lists. I don’t think Thunderstruck would be something for me though. We studied Marconi and the wireless telegraph in school and I found it dreadfully boring for some reason.

    YES! Marconi did a lot of his work in Canada!!!!!! ok, back off on the exclams, Care.

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