Erik Larson has a knack of taking two moments of history and finding their intersection in time to tell his story. While not quite as compelling as The Devil in the White City, Larson in this novel is once again successful at paralleling two seemingly unrelated events.
Thunderstuck tells the story of Marconi and his quest to send wireless transmissions first from shore to ships and finally across the Atlantic. The other half of Thunderstruck tells of Dr. Crippen, the gentle-hearted man, who brutally murdered his wife. The relation of these two events (or stories) is unclear for most of the novel, and I often found myself growing impatient with how they were going to be connected, but at the end the connection becomes evident–which at once shows the horrors of the mystery murder as well as the race for communication made available by Marconi (no, that was not an attempt on my part of make the connection clear).
What I like about Larson is his ability to delve into history. I saw this more with The Devil, but he not only gives the details about the subject at hand, but he also gives other details of the times–sometimes related sometimes as a little bit of a digression. Some of the information and history he provides in his novels are fascinating. Larson also has a way of taking a piece of history and spinning it into a mystery. While I knew the outcome of the novel before beginning, there was a still an air of suspense within the writing–allowing me to keep turning the page.
On the other hand, some of the details became a little confusing, and Larson has a habit of giving a detail and saying that it will be relevant later, but the connection for me was not always made. It was too much work to flip back to see if something was a detail he had promised to reveal earlier in the book. (Does that make sense?).
Recommendation: I would recommend this to anyone who likes history and mystery. This isn’t my favorite by Larson, but I will definitely pick up his next book. If you haven’t read anything by Larson yet, read The Devil in the White City–whether you like non-ficiton or not!
* Picture courtesy of www.npr.org