The writer Erik Larson seems to have taken out a patent on a new kind of true crime story. First he identifies a historical murder mystery, the more gruesome the better. Then he finds a world-changing event that was unfolding at the same time. Finally, he teases out the connections between the two in parallel narratives that dance back and forth between the crime and its context. Larson pioneered this approach in 2003 in his book The Devil in the White City (Random House), in which the murderer was Henry Holmes, a serial killer, and the historical event was the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. While Holmes was killing young women in his basement horror lab, not far away the World’s Fair was attracting 27 million visitors to its site, the so-called White City, glistening on the shores of Lake Michigan. Larson’s more recent book, Thunderstruck (Random House), juxtaposes the development of wireless telegraphy by Guglielmo Marconi with the case of Dr. Hawley Crippen, who murdered his wife. The book is far too long and the reader’s attention flags as Larson follows every up and down in the career of Marconi and the doomed marriage of the Crippens. But the story picks up steam in the last hundred pages. Crippen, having disposed of his wife by poisoning her, then flensing her body and burying the remains in the basement of their London home, makes his escape across the Atlantic to Canada aboard a Canadian Pacific steamship. With him is his lover, Ethel Le Neve, disguised as a boy and oblivious to what the good doctor has done. Remember O.J. fleeing down the highway in his white Ford Bronco while the whole world watched on television? Well, the same thing occurred in 1910. Thanks to Marconi’s invention of the wireless, the ship’s captain was able to alert Scotland Yard to Crippen’s presence on his vessel, and the police set out in hot pursuit. Word leaked to the press that a transatlantic chase was going on, and the world was reading about it in the headlines as it was taking place. When the doctor arrived in the St. Lawrence, a Scotland Yard detective came on board to arrest him. As Larson says, it was the most dramatic encounter since Stanley met Livingstone; it also adds a rollicking finale to an otherwise slow-moving book.