Erik Larson did it again.
I was first introduced to Mr. Larson when I read his book Devil in the White City. It is a wonderful book that follows the development of the Chicago World’s Fair and the progress of one of the earliest American Serial Killers. A creepy topic to be sure, but Larson ‘executed’ the story very well.
Next, I tried his book In the Garden of Beasts (which I was NOT as impressed with: link here for my review). In the Garden, Larson follows the American Ambassador to Germany in the days prior to WWII. Somehow that book did not have the cleverness of Devil in the White City. It was well researched, but book lacked something.
With these mixed feelings I embarked on reading Dead Wake. This time Larson rebounded with a fantastic book on the Lusitania. While the sinking of the Lusitania was not THE catalyst for America’s entry into the war, it played a big part in moving American public opinion to favor the war.
Larson’s impeccable research is showcased again in this historical work. His attention to detail is seen when he treats readers to a description of what passengers were wearing when the ship went down. However, Larson does not get bogged down in details.
He humanizes the story by focusing on the Captain of the Lusitania, the Captain of the U-boat and US President Wilson. He even notes that U-Boat Captain who sunk the ship, was also a man who rescued puppies from previous vessel he sunk. And, not only kept one of the dogs but gave other U-Boat Captains ship’s dogs. These details saw readers that the people who made major movements in history were, at the end of the day, people.
Larson marries the themes of war, humanity and sailing to create a captivating work of history. Anyone who enjoyed his previous work will not be disappointed with his current release.