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The Devil in the White City

Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

By Erik Larson

(163)

| Paperback | 9780375725609

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Book Description

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly Continue

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. --John Moe

14 Reviews

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  • 1 person finds this helpful

    I, personally, found the "White City" more interesting than the serial killer.

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    Susannag said on Apr 16, 2013 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    A Book that Proves Truth is Stranger than Fiction

    Not being a big fan of Non-Fiction, probably thanks to all the droll history books I was forced to read in school, I have to admit this book captivated me. It is written in the grand style of of great fiction novel, with the emphasis put on the char ...(continue)

    Not being a big fan of Non-Fiction, probably thanks to all the droll history books I was forced to read in school, I have to admit this book captivated me. It is written in the grand style of of great fiction novel, with the emphasis put on the characters and just enough historical facts to give you a feel of the times. With interesting characters and the World's Fair of 1893 as its backdrop, this book tells the tale of two of the most intriguing events in our times, one of them being H.H. Holmes.

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    Bradley S. Hartman said on Mar 21, 2012 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    Two good stories, one average book

    THe concept here is the overlap of the staging of the Worlds Fair of 1893 in Chicago and the presence and reign of a psychopath. Both take place in Chicago, both between 1890 and 1893. But the characters in these tales dont overlap and dont interac ...(continue)

    THe concept here is the overlap of the staging of the Worlds Fair of 1893 in Chicago and the presence and reign of a psychopath. Both take place in Chicago, both between 1890 and 1893. But the characters in these tales dont overlap and dont interact. The story of the planning, construction and running of the Fair is the far more interesting story. And has the greater detail and pace given it has more historical information to mine and be based upon. the author himself notes that the tale of the murderer is based on very little in terms of historical record. And hence his recounting of murders, disappearances and threats are hollow and come across as such. There is a reference to a book dedicated to the mass murders that I am inclined to go and find.

    So ho hum. the Worlds Fair sounds amazing for its time, how it was a riposte to France's fair that included the unveiling of the Eiffel tower. Good story, though perhaps also gets bogged down in the back and forth of secondary characters.

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    John Trigg said on Nov 16, 2011 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    Slow start; definitely found the 2nd half a more interesting read.

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    Anobii Renm said on Jan 20, 2011 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    This is a pretty crazy book. I'm not one for hearing about how a psychopath goes about doing his business, but the author doesn't go into too much of the gory details. The other half of the book which talks about the World's Fair in Chicago is equa ...(continue)

    This is a pretty crazy book. I'm not one for hearing about how a psychopath goes about doing his business, but the author doesn't go into too much of the gory details. The other half of the book which talks about the World's Fair in Chicago is equally fascinating. Learned a lot about a city I love to visit and a magical period of U.S. history.

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    Rice Cooker said on Aug 7, 2010 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    Just Okay

    I liked the information the book provided, but was not fond of the way it was presented. It provided two great stories, but the way it switches back and forth from chapter to chapter often gets frustrating. Just when you have a key element of one eve ...(continue)

    I liked the information the book provided, but was not fond of the way it was presented. It provided two great stories, but the way it switches back and forth from chapter to chapter often gets frustrating. Just when you have a key element of one event it switches to another and I thought it could have been tied together better. It was a great story however and provides a great history of the Chicago Worlds Fair

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    Chriscarv said on Dec 10, 2009 | Add your feedback

Book Details

  • Rating:
    (163)
    • 5 stars
    • 4 stars
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  • English Books
  • Paperback 464 Pages
  • ISBN-10: 0375725601
  • ISBN-13: 9780375725609
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc
  • Publish date: 2004-02-01
  • Dimensions: 161 mm x 838 mm x 1,296 mm
  • Also available as: Hardcover , Audio CD , Audio Cassette , eBook
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