Book Review: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

February 26, 2010

One of my favorite genres of books is one I’ve often seen referred to with the somewhat lengthy name “nonfiction that reads like fiction.” While I think we need to come up with a shorter, catchier name for this genre (if you know of one already, please let me know), it seems to me that books written in such a style are becoming more common.

The most recent one I’ve finished is Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. I was already somewhat familiar with his work, having read The Devil in the White City (for which Larson won the Edgar Award) a few years ago. That book was actually my first foray into this genre and I highly recommend it.

But back to Thunderstruck: it reads like a fast-paced thriller, yet every bit of it is true. It tells two stories: Marconi and the advent of wireless and London’s second most famous murder. The chapters alternate between these two stories and eventually climax when the modern invention has a startling impact on the murder investigation.

The book is long: 480 pages in the hardcover edition (though that does include many pages of notes at the end). Despite the length, however, this is a quick read. The chapters themselves are fairly short and so engaging that once you start reading you’ll probably forget to stop. I read the majority of the book in just one day.

If you’re looking for a book to get lost in, Thunderstruck should do the trick.