Thunderstruck: Cleaning House with Erik Larson

My family will tell you that I am no domestic goddess.  I hate cleaning house, and I especially loathe cleaning the bathroom.  I am convinced that bathroom cleaning qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.  However, I hate living in filth even more, which is I why I grudgingly drag myself through our bathrooms and clean them up.  And since I have two sons, this means I get to complete this delightful task more than once a week.

Cleaning house also deprives me of my coveted book reading time.  Those of you with children know that book reading time can be hard to come by and should be protected at all costs.  But at long last, I have found the key to house cleaning motivation and increasing my book time:  audiobooks!!! Now that I have embraced audiobooks, I not only increased my precious book reading time, I found something that makes me WANT to clean house just so I can listen to a good book.  

That is how I found myself spending an entire day sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming my house while listening to Thunderstruck written by Erik Larson and narrated by Bob Balaban.  I could not stop listening.  

The book centers on a sensational London murder in the early 20th century and the subsequent chase for the suspect killers.  At the same time, Larson weaves in the story of Marconi and his quest to develop wireless telegraphy, which would play an integral part in the capture of the suspected murderers.  The first part introduces a cast of colorful characters involved in both the murder case and the invention of wireless telegraphy:  a sad and lonely patent medicine doctor, a boisterous and demanding wife, a scattered scientist with symptoms of ADD, an obsessed and self-taught inventor, and a dashing sea captain.  In alternating chapters we are taken on a fascinating ride through Marconi’s efforts and the doctor’s unhappy marriage, leading up to the murder, chase, arrest, and trial.  

I really enjoyed this book.  Both stories held my attention and kept me wanting to know what happened next.  I knew nothing about Marconi (other than he had invented wireless telegraphy) before this book, and I had never heard about this murder case that had riveted both the United States and the United Kingdom.  Marconi’s story is very integral to this book, because without his technology the killer might have escaped.  

I found the ending especially satisfying.  I always want to know what happened to EVERYONE in the end.  This book delivered that closure for me.  The epilogue includes an account of what happened to all the players after the trial.  

Bob Balaban perfectly narrates the book.  I am very familiar with his film work, but I haven’t heard any other books he has narrated.  His quiet, dry whit and delivery added to my enjoyment of this book.  

I’m definitely backlisting all other Erik Larson books.  I can’t wait to read his other works.  Next on my list is Dead Wake.


Book:  Thunderstruck
Author:  Erik Larson
Publisher:  Random House Audio
Date Published:  October 10, 2006
Overall:  A+
Story:  A+
Performance:  A+
Source:  Audible (my own collection)