Reviews for The Mysterious Case Of Rudolf Diesel

by Douglas Brunt

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A World War I–era tale about an important invention and a mystery surrounding its creator. In his latest, Brunt, the author of Ghosts of Manhattan, chronicles the life and work of Rudolf Diesel, who disappeared in September 1913. While the word diesel is well known in the English language, most readers know little or nothing about Diesel and the innovative internal combustion engine he invented. The author’s interest in history and politics shines through in his well-researched, engaging book. In addition to describing the engine and its applications, Brunt provides a clear picture of Diesel the inventor, the polyglot, the man dreaming of social justice and a peaceful world. “The process of invention is inherently linked to the social and economic challenges of the time,” writes the author, “and inventors like Rudolf Diesel were generally working in response to forces beyond their control.” The text is equally fascinating when the author delineates the pursuits of Kaiser Wilhelm II, John D. Rockefeller, and Winston Churchill, all of whom were factors in Diesel’s life. Brunt’s curiosity about Diesel is contagious even if a good portion of the narrative is about his contemporaries, whether inventors, politicians, or business tycoons. The author’s theory about Diesel’s disappearance rests on this extensive backstory, though it lacks definitive proof and remains confounding. Regardless, Brunt brings readers on a pleasant excursion across Europe and North America, chronicling the stories of German aspirations to trump British naval power and the landscape of the U.S. before it became a true world power. Also intriguing are Diesel’s accurate predictions about pollution, solar power, and even rising nationalism, and the book’s parallels to present-day innovations and their societal and political implications make it a worthy read. After all, Diesel lived in tumultuous times that bear striking similarities to the present. Weaving together technological, economic, social, and political threads, Brunt offers much to ponder. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.