In 1888 on a busy street in Manhattan, New York City, a young man, who works for Western Union, attempts to connect two direct current wires by mistake. The workman’s arms jolted with orange sparks, a blue flame shot from his mouth and set his hair on fire. Then it melted his clothes and the skin off his bones….
Witnessed by 200 people, as well as the young lawyer Paul Cravath, the terrifying event begins this historical novel about a compelling and often mysterious story about the so-called current wars. Which is better, direct or alternating current? A bitter rivalry is fought between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. These two men file suits and countersuits over who invented the light bulb. Paul Craveth represents Westinghouse. Then Nikola Tesla enters the story, whose genius and erratic behavior take center stage. Tesla touts the alternating current and demonstrates its safety in dramatic fashion to Paul. He sends arcs of A/C all over his New York workshop to prove its worth to Paul, who is visiting. Tesla can even envision devices that are not yet made, but will be, far into the future, such as mobile phones and instant communication. We get a look at his quirky, erratic behavior when he will subsist on only water and saltine crackers. When given a pork roast to eat, he wouldn’t touch it, because “it was divisible by seven and toxic to him.”
This novel will keep the reader eagerly turning pages. A mystery surrounds who set fire to Tesla’s workshop. Paul is pulled out alive but injured. Tesla has disappeared. Is he alive or dead? Paul, as the vehicle in which the story continues, is under great duress because his law firm represents Westinghouse. He probably won’t win the lawsuits against his own client! Edison owns a huge company and will do anything to win. There are misdirections in the story as to what has happened, not only with the fire, but other events as well. For example, who is the mole or spy in Westinghouse's factories working for Edison? Graham Moore’s plot and writing make you care about the characters, especially Tesla and Paul. You hope that Tesla is alive and that Paul can win his lawsuits. Also, there is a great deal of information about the early electrification of America, and the real-life characters behind the current wars. This terrific historical novel is well worth the read.