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Paperback The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America Book

ISBN: 0375725601

ISBN13: 9780375725609

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

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Book Overview

Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller In the Garden of Beasts—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

Customer Reviews

10 ratings

blah in parts

i was not that excited about this book, i found it rambling and not enough information about HH holmes himself, it was more about the fair and its design than anything else, i truely expected a crime book, but i found it lacking, but i did read it all, took me forever because parts of it i found so boring

VERY Disappointing

Based on reviews I'd read, I expected this book to be excellent. But for a 'true crime' aficionado, the majority of this book was related to the development of the World's fair -- way too little about the crimes committed by H.H.Holmes. I wonder if this book should even have been classified as a 'true crime' book, since there was so little that dealt with the crimes. After about the first 75 pages or so, I started skipping over all of the chapters about the World's Fair. In doing this, although I generally only read a couple of chapters in bed at night, the book only took me about a week to finish. Once you cut out all the World's Fair stuff, the book was probably no more than 100 pages long! As a side note: Unfortunately, in the early part of the book there was a horrific description of the way they used to slaughter pigs back in that era. As a major animal lover (and former pig owner), THAT was one of the things that most disturbed me.

We loved this book!

Aside from the historical significance of the Colombian Exhibition of 1894, my husband and I were that much more interested in the book because my husband's great grandfather moved from Kansas City, Kansas to Chicago to help build the boardwalks for this exposition. He also hired out his horses and wagon to transport people to and fro. From his earnings he was able to buy his dreamed for farm in Saugatuck, Michigan and move his family there. The details that the book brings forward are fascinating as we think of our own great grandfather seeing all those sights. Our grandmother was a young girl back then and told us some of the things she experienced there too as her father worked hard.

One of my favorite books

Very absorbing history of the making-and mishaps-of the first Worlds Fair at Chicago, along with the disappearances of the young women who came to the Windy City.

I absolutely love this book !! But the condition it came in was disgusting it had cookies or something smashed on the pages and front and back cover of the book. Also staining on the pages along with bent pages

A brilliant, spellbinding work of non-fiction

This is a fabulous story and an absolutely riveting book. And it details events that I must confess I knew absolutely nothing about! Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element if the great dynamic that characterized America's rush towards the 20th century, The architect was Daniel Burnham, the fair's brilliant director of works, and the murderer was Henry Holmes, a young doctor who built his own hotel just west if the fairgrounds - a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and a 3000 degree crematorium. I loved the way Larson symbolically weaves these two stories together, and paints an invaluable and detailed picture of life at the end of the 19th century. There are many, many treasures in this book - the accounts of the initial design of the White City, the descriptions of dirt and "stink" of Chicago, and the detailing of the engineering marvels that took place at the time. I thought that the account of the invention and subsequent construction of the world's first Ferris wheel was incredibly interesting. I think that central theme raised in this book is the question of how much is a city prepared to sacrifice and spend in civic pride, and what are the ultimate costs - both monetarily and to people - in achieving this? The strive to build the White City in time for the World's Fair entailed many sacrifices, but it also showed how resilient cities can be, and how the sorts of civic decisions can effect urban living for years to come. I've never been to Chicago, but this book really stirred my interest in visiting this city.This is a fascinating book, and a must read!Michael

Mystery and History

The Devil in the White City seems like a funny name for a book. The White City is the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1892 to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America. It was called White City because the major exhibition buildings were painted white. To contrast this Herman Mudgett who called himself H H Holmes after the famous fictional detective was the devil. He was a mass murderer with 9 documented killings and likely many more. This book brings to life both events that have mostly been forgotten now but were very important at the time. The book is both interesting and entertaining and kept me reading late into the night. The murders were described with detail but not any of the gore that might turn a reader off. The building and execution of the fair was also detailed but was informative without a dry and textbook sound. Even though this book reads like fiction it has been well researched and contains many direct quotes from letters and articles of the times. One of the best parts of this book was to come away with a real feel of how it was to live in a large city in the 1900's. That alone was worth the price of the book.

Fabulous Historical True Crime Saga

Author Erik Larson had set the bar pretty high for himself after his previous book, "Issac's Storm," was such a huge critical and commericial success. Surely, he couldn't top that, could he? Well, with "The Devil in the White City," Larson has produced a book at least the equal of, if not better than, his previous effort. As a work of history, this book has it all. It resurrects for the modern reader the memory of an all-too-forgotten historical event (the 1893 Chicago World's Fair) and combines it with the sensational and gruesome story of the firt American equivalent of Jack The Ripper.The book is structured as a dual biography of Daniel Hudson Burnham, the steadfast architecht who was the prime mover in making the World's Fair an astounding succes; and of Dr. H.H. Holmes, the diabolical psychopath who operated his own killing chamber in a hotel he built not far from the fairgrounds. The two men never met, nor did they have any connection other than their contemporary existance, but weaving their stories together was a brilliant choice by Larson.Larson provies plenty of colorful backdrop for his main story, vividly describing harsh life in 19th Century Chicago; the development of the first skyscrapers, the Charles Dickens-like ambiance of the streets and the colorful personalities that made it go. He also describes the amazing and lasting impact the Fair had upon America, the The Ferris Wheel, Cracker Jack and Shredded Wheat being but a few of the things that debuted there. And, of course, he graphically describes the Holmes murders and the investigation that finally brought him to justice. Larson is a diligent researcher in addition to being an excellent storyteller, and that's what makes this book so special.Overall, an outstanding work of narrative history that is like to be high on most reviewer's lists of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2003.

Perfectly paced and constructed.

I downloaded this book from Audible.com and listened as I did some work in my studio. What strikes me most about this book is the detailed research that went into the parallel story about the Chicago World's Fair and how it's woven around the story of the murders. Pleasant surprises are abound as little by little you get a sense of history based on the historical figures present and they are revealed very thoughtfully.I would like to write more although I don't want to spoil the tale. But I can say that a chilling picture is painted with this book, made even more so as it goes on in the background of the preperation and construction of the World's Fair. It's like looking into a crowded room and reading the mind of the one insane individual mingling with the rest of society--and put into great and interesting historical context.

Unspeakable Wonders and Startling Evil

Larson has created the first must-read nonfiction title of the year, an assured and satisfying work which vividly portrays the one of the last grand gasps of the nineteenth century, the World's Fair of 1893.Daniel Hudson Burnham, architect and overseer of the fair, builds the White City itself, while Henry H. Holmes is the titular devil, a charismatic young doctor with blood-curdling obsessions. The British of the period may have dealt with Jack the Ripper, but our ever-expanding country weaned its own monster, whose house of horrors stood in the shadows of the great architectural triumphs of the Fair.This compelling book moves with the relentlessness of the greatest novels of our time. The supporting cast includes such luminaries as Edison, Archduke Ferdinand, Buffalo Bill, and Susan B. Anthony; the ill-fated Titanic even makes an appearance in the books opening pages.Larson's evocative prose fully engulfs the viewer in the period, and the dark and dreadful scenes with Henry H. Holmes are given welcome respite by the tales of Burnham's amazing accomplishment. The enjoyment of this stunning work is only heightened by the knowledge that the story is true.
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