I sometimes wonder how the Victorian era managed to spawn so many sensational murder mysteries. This story by Erik Larson is on a par with the likes of Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper. In fact, the detective who finally solved the mystery of who killed Cora Crippen, aka Belle Elmore, was involved in the Ripper case – his first as a young detective.
When I first started reading the book I wasn’t at all sure how everything would fit together – all the while aware of Larson’s penchant for writing books about two or more seemingly unrelated events and somehow tying them together in a nice package. Perhaps what threw me off a bit was how the book went back and forth between events that weren’t parallel to one another.
The most intriguing part involved the tale of a mild-mannered homeopathic doctor, an American living in London with his flamboyant (and overbearing) wife. Then the story would switch back to Guglielmo Marconi and his efforts to perfect wireless communications. I learned a lot about Marconi, but that part of the story wasn’t quite as intriguing as Dr. H.H. Crippen’s story.
However, as the two stories caught up to one another it began to make sense. I won’t give away any more of the story, but suffice it to say these two seemingly unrelated stories do tie together nicely. It’s fascinating how history has a way of catching up like that.
In the book’s introductory paragraphs Larson asks his readers “to forgive my passion for digression. If, for example, you learn more than you need to know about a certain piece of flesh, I apologize in advance, although I confess I make that apology only halfheartedly.”
Readers may find the Marconi part a bit of a drag on the overall story – some reviewers called it tedious and drawn out. If Larson hadn’t spent the time developing Marconi’s story he would have strayed from his normal writing style, however. Anyone interested in Victorian era crimes will find this a great read, even if you have to skim through the technical jargon and sometimes-tedious Marconi-part of the book.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2015.