The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel: Genius, Power, and Deception on the Eve of World War I

S. & S. Audio. Sept. 2023. 12:41 hrs. ISBN 9781797164052. $23.99. HIST
Rudolf Diesel, the German inventor of the diesel engine, mysteriously disappeared from a ship steaming from Brussels to England in 1913. Three possible explanations were put forward: suicide, murder, or defection. Diesel was born in 1858 in Paris to Bavarian parents. He won a scholarship to the Royal Bavarian Polytechnic of Munich, where he excelled. He later worked in refrigeration technology while pursuing his interest in creating an energy-efficient internal combustion engine. His remarkable engine produced no exhaust and was quieter than other engines; it needed no spark, required much less fuel, and eliminated the need for steam. The engine also required less maintenance and fewer workers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Diesel’s revolutionary engine was not appreciated by the oil industry, and his global collaborative approach to improving technology angered German nationalists. Narrator Scott Brick brings energy and emotion to his reading of novelist Brunt’s (Trophy Son) nonfiction debut, positing a surprising explanation for Diesel’s disappearance. Brick ably conveys the wealth of historical details and previously unknown information while adding a note of intrigue and momentum to the mystery.
VERDICT Brunt’s well-researched account should appeal to listeners interested in technology, engineering, and the social and political climate of the early 20th century.
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