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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Marconi Wireless and the Capture of Dr Crippen

ThunderstruckThunderstruck by Erik Larson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Erik Larson has used the same juxtapositioning he used in Devil in The White City but here the story of the competition to achieve wireless communication over long distances was repetitive and at times tedious. Certainly the men involved in this race were interesting and the science behind this advancement in technology quite fascinating, though it was ironic that the man who was given credit for its achievement was in no way a scientist. Marconi was a rich man's son whose mother was a daughter of the Jameson Irish whiskey family and therefore had time and money to pursue what was basically an obsession to send messages across the Atlantic Ocean.

The second story involving the strange case of a gentle doctor's murder and dismemberment of an abusive wife was far less developed. As a result many questions involving the act and the eventual trial of the man who committed it left this reader feeling disquieted. There were times when it was wondered if the twining of the stories was going to involve the meeting of the two men in some strange circumstance. Yet, the Marconi story took place primarily in 1904 - 1906 and the murder and trial took place in 1910, leading to even more confusion.

At the end, the connection was revealed. Marconi's invention of wireless communication with ships at sea resulted in the apprehension of Dr Crippen and his paramour a they arrived in Canada, having taken a ship from Antwerp in an effort to escape the noose. Devil in the White City is by far the better book.

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