Enjoyed this audio book... the history is amazing. Switching back and forth from the details of the construction of the Chicago World's Fair and a serial killer embedded within the mosaic of every-day life maintained my interest enough that I finished the book in several days. The details of inventions introduced at the times and the details of prominent (and not so well known) architects and inventors kept me busy figuring out who was who and what was what... but the return to the serial killer kept me grounded. The rich history embedded in the book was an education. My first audible book. GREAT... gonna get more!
A reader who varied his voice or showed some excitement. Some dialogue in the book.
A text book.
Monotone with no material to help him out.
I think the history about Chicago was great, which was the main virtue of the book.
I bought this book based on the glowing reviews but I have to say now almst 3 hours in I am really starting to wonder. It is a nice depiction of Chicago, and perhaps if I accept it as a history lesson and not the murder mystery I thought I was getting, it will be better.
It just seems like there is a great story here but the author does not bring the characters alive to me. I want more dialog not the endless narration of a very repetitive nature.
Retired former magazine editor who is working harder than ever as Mr. Dad to his 13-year-old daughter.
I'm sure people who loved this book will disagree with me but my expectations were far from met after wading through 15 hours of listening. I thought the connection between H.H. Holmes and the Chicago World's Fair was tedious at best. Larson might have done just as well to insert a photo of a scantily clad girl from the gay '90s every 25 pages or so. Of course, that would have proved problematic for Audible customers. If you like "architectural talk" and the behind-the-scences motivations of those involved in the trade, then this is a book for you. That's especially true if you also like a sprinkling of "serial killer story" with your description of building and landscape architecture. This book was well researched and well written, hence the three stars. It just wasn't for me. (The last 50 minutes summarized the first 14 hours and would have sufficed.)
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood."
― Daniel H. Burnham
“His weakness was his belief that evil had boundaries.”
― Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City
A nice piece of narrative nonfiction that weaves together the story of the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair of 1893) with the story of the serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes.
White with black.
Achievement with horror.
Knowledge with ignorance.
Light with darkness.
Life with death.
This is kinda a brilliant construct: an alternating prose current of crazy and rational, evil and beautiful. I'm not sure if I could handle 400 pages of either subject without the other. The architecture piece was amazing, but didn't drive the narrative very hard. The characters, the architects, the dreamers, etc., were impressive. Daniel Hudson Turnham, Frederick Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan were all compelling because of their drive, their ego, their absolute resolution and certainty of success. They capture that Gilded Age ego and excess perfectly.
Conversely, the story of Dr. Holmes was at times almost too sick and twisted. Periodically, I would need a pause. I needed to leave the Holmes' dark Murder Castle to the White City for breath and sanity.
The limit of this book is the same limits that hit Capote's 'In Cold Blood' and Mailer's 'The Executioner's Song'. How do you exactly recreate a murder scene? How do you understand the victim? How do you understand the murderer? Especially when they either leave nothing behind or you can't trust what they've written. These narrative fictionalizations are probably necessary given the limits of information we have. But still, they are fictions. We can never really know what those women thought as they were trapped in the vault or what Dr. Holmes thought as he waited for someone to die in a trunk or vault. Larson admits this limit, but it ends up being a necessary facade, and one I can deal with.
Again, it isn't a perfect book. A bit too pop and a bit too loose with the Holmes facts. When dancing into that zone of fictionalized history he gets close to Capote and Mailer, but falls a bit short of the narrative masters of of murder.
Tried to find merit in this book but after several chapters, I gave up. If you are familiar with Chicago you might like this book.
Two unique stories with little relevance to each other. Either would have been good in their own right but together, not so much .
Probably one of my favorites. It was VERY well done.
I studied serial killers and profiling as an undergraduate. I assumed I would enjoy the story of HH Holmes more than the story of the fair but I found it the other way around. Oh the information about Holmes is great and if you are unfamiliar with the story, you really should listen to it, the man was pure evil but the story of the building of the Chicago Worlds Fair is just incredible. I had no idea of everything that went into that fair. I live in Illinois and have seen models of the fair and a few pictures but it's one of those things that I wish I could have seen. Even given today's modern world it would have been amazing BUT back then, the lights, the wheel, the buildings, the fountains etc etc.....all just totally amazing.
Holmes.....he did make him charmingly smarmy
I can't think of a better one actually
I HIGHLY recommend this book. Not all of Larson's books are this good but this book, is one of the best true crime/non fiction books I have ever read.
audio addict! Mostly interested in history and some historical fiction. Will Durant is my all time favorite. Loving the Great Courses too.
I purchased this book because it was recommended as an Audible Essential. Also, I love historical books with unique perspective of the past and eclectic characters.
"Professor and the Madman" is a great example.
This is the story of the incredible Chicago World Fair and of the many murders of H. H. Holmes, who built a cheap hotel to host the many young women coming to see the spectacle.
Seems interesting, right?
I was incredibly let down! This story has so much potential! To be sure, there are fascinating moments in this book, incredible characters, and important moments of history. (Susan B. Anthony's fantastic interaction with Buffalo Bill Cody, the spoiled Infanta of Spain and her terrible outbursts, the catty fights and antics of "Women Managers Committee", the unveiling of Ferris Wheel and the first electric chair, etc.)
Nickola Tesla, Samuel Clemens, Annie Oakley, young Walt Disney-- The list of interesting people and things that were part of the Chicago World Fair 1893 is endless.
The author's attempt at mixing the dual story lines was poorly executed. The wealth of information on the World Fair was elaborate and complex; the issues of the main characters and the city of Chicago to pull off the event were immense. Yet the murder mystery of Holmes was speculative, vague, and without proper details to understand his motive or his actions. I could not keep up with the many marriages, name changes and murders Holmes is thought to have committed. The murder story was a jumbled and confusing mess mixed in every few chapters with the intricate story of the Fair. It didn't work for me.
The author would have done better to write two separate books, instead of cramming these stories together. There was more than enough interesting detail for the book to focus on the World Fair alone. Holmes murder story was very rushed at the end. The result was anticlimactic, when the story of the murders could have been at its most intense.
It seems evident that this was rushed to the print.
As for the narration, I usually like Scott Brick. But in this performance, I was equally annoyed with the narration. I suppose his style lends to a story with a climax, like an intense mystery novel or the tragic adventure/exploration books I've heard him read. But in Devil in the White City, Brick's narration only added to the tease and the disappointing finale.
It always puzzles me how people can stand to listen to Scott Brick. I suspect they are people who have not read much. Scott Brick is unable to approximate ordinary human speech. He is CONstantly overEMphasizing ALMOST Every SYLlable. Get what I mean? It's like listening to most American actors do Shakespeare: most of the words are unfamiliar to them, and it's Shakespeare, right, so they think they're supposed to sound important. As a result, they sound like schoolboys proclaiming their first essay at school. Compare Denzel Washington with Kenneth Branagh.
In short, read like people talk. It's simply said, but, as Scott Brick proves, hard to do. I'm not saying I'd do any better. But at least I know good narration when I hear it. Examples: Christopher Hitchens; Grover Gardner: Master of the Senate; Jeremy Irons: Lolita; Juliet Stephenson: anything she reads; Bronson Pinchot: Matterhorn; John Castle: Vanity Fair; Nigel Graham: Lord Jim. Even Fredrick Davidson, alias David Case, even though his accent is hard to take sometimes, knows when to stress a syllable and when not to. He flows, wheres Scott Brick is constantly stubbing his toe against the English language. Also terrible, for the same reason: John Lee. Stop ruining books by giving them to these people. Just pay Juliet Stephenson whatever she wants to read everything.