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The Devil in the White City | [Erik Larson]

The Devil in the White City

In a thrilling narrative showcasing his gifts as storyteller and researcher, Erik Larson recounts the spellbinding tale of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Also available abridged.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential - A master storyteller and veteran thriller narrator join forces to create this riveting true account of Chicago’s famous World Fair. But behind its Gilded Age of architectural feats and electrical innovation, lies a murderer waiting in the wings. True crime, history, and thriller fans are in for a treat. —Diana M.

Publisher's Summary

In a thrilling narrative showcasing his gifts as storyteller and researcher, Erik Larson recounts the spellbinding tale of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The White City (as it became known) was a magical creation constructed upon Chicago's swampy Jackson Park by Daniel H. Burnham, the famed architect who coordinated the talents of Frederick Olmsted, Louis Sullivan, and others to build it. Dr. Henry H. Holmes combined the fair's appeal with his own fatal charms to lure scores of women to their deaths. Whereas the fair marked the birth of a new epoch in American history, Holmes marked the emergence of a new American archetype, the serial killer, who thrived on the very forces then transforming the country.

In deft prose, Larson conveys Burnham's herculean challenge to build the White City in less than 18 months. At the same time, he describes how, in a malign parody of the achievements of the fair's builders, Holmes built his own World's Fair Hotel - a torture palace complete with a gas chamber and crematorium. Throughout the book, tension mounts on two fronts: Will Burnham complete the White City before the millions of visitors arrive at its gates? Will anyone stop Holmes as he ensnares his victims?

© 2003 Erik Larson; (P) 2003 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Edgar Allan Poe Award Winner, Fact Crime, 2004

"A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private." (Chicago Tribune)
"Vivid history of the glittering Chicago World's Fair and its dark side." (New York Magazine)
"Both intimate and engrossing, Larson's elegant historical account unfolds with the painstaking calm of a Holmes murder."(Library Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (5040 )
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Performance
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  •  
    D Peekskill, NY, USA 09-18-03
    D Peekskill, NY, USA 09-18-03 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Rich Read!"

    I enjoyed this listen so much I lost sleep to continue listening. Scott Brick is my favorite narrator and he doesn't disappoint here. Set in Chicago in the late 1800's the book tells two stories. The fascinating story of Chicago's rush to build the White City and hold the World Fair of 1893 (celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America and visited by everyone who was anyone); as well as the murderous actions of Herman Mudgett (a.k.a. HH Holmes) a well respected doctor who preyed on young trusting women, and anyone else who got in his way.

    The author writes in such a way that you can truly imagine the excitement and boom happening in that place and time. Other added details such as the detectives' intense search for evidence, appearances by famous people, and a tale from the Titanic make this story a rich and enjoyable read.

    This was a huge undertaking for any author and I'm glad Larson ventured to uncover this enthralling story, however more details of both the murders and the building of the city would have been welcomed. Still a fascinating read that for the first time makes me look forward to the movie so I can see the incredible White City come to life.

    139 of 143 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Audra Toronto, ON, Canada 10-13-03
    Audra Toronto, ON, Canada 10-13-03
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    "Couldn't take my earphone out..."

    I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this audible book. The two story lines are both wonderful and either one on their own would have been enough to keep me entertained.

    A wonderfully researched and thoughtfully written book that is brought to life by a voice made to be listened to.

    Do yourself a favour and get this one.

    41 of 46 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PKsweets CA 10-27-09
    PKsweets CA 10-27-09 Member Since 2004

    A reader from day 1 now a listener too! Remember honesty in a review does help you decide, even if you don't agree!

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    "Entrancing historical thriller"

    In reading some of the lower rated reviews, I was hesitant to make this pick but now
    I cannot think of a better way to tell the two intertwined stories presented here. They are the yin and yang of the event, and with the wonderful narration, and engrossing detail, the story flew along.....well, as fast as you can listen to those 14+ hours. Unlike other long downloads, this one kept me in the story, and I did not have to 'back-up' to remember the place....
    The amazing scope of this Fair is awesome, and for the time history-making on so many fronts, from the Labor movement, to engineering, and sanitation, we can still see this Fair's footprint on our daily lives! Concurrently,
    the gruesome serial-killer who took advantage of the circumstances is a potent reminder that there is always evil lurking just under the beautiful surface, and we cannot be too vigilant.
    The narration was perfect, and this story will please the history buff, mystery or thriller reader in you.

    24 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Meggin Reno, NV, United States 05-27-13
    Meggin Reno, NV, United States 05-27-13 Member Since 2014

    Speaker, Coach, Author - in Reno, NV (A GREAT place!) I've been an avid Audible fan for several years. Listen on my iPhone many hours each week.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Best Book I've Listened to in at Least a Year!"

    WOW! My first Erik Larson book and definitely not my last. I only wish Scott Brick was the narrator for the one I just bought. From the first sentence through the last one, I was completely taken in by this story and this performance. I learned so much and I enjoyed every second of it. I can't even think of a book that was as "perfect" (I hate to use that word) as this one and definitely better to listen because of Scott Brick than it would have been if I had read it. It sounds like a novel but of course, it's true, which made it even more exciting. Loved it!!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Calliope 09-09-13
    Calliope 09-09-13
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    "well written, well researched, well read"

    I'll start by saying that, as much as I liked this audio book, it's really two stories that aren't wound together very well. That's OK because they're both good and worth time and attention. The bulk of the book is about the creation and execution of the Columbian Exposition, which is told in a way that is more interesting than one would expect. From the architectural challenges to the societal politics, from the adoption of AC current to the creation of the first Ferris Wheel, it was all far more interesting than I had expected. The addition of the extra story, of the sociopath serial killer HH Holmes, is timely enough so as not to stand out, but doesn't really flow as part of the story of the Exposition either. Holmes ran a ''hotel'' for young women going to the Fair, many of whom fatally disappeared, but Holmes crimes started before the Fair and continued after, so linking them is a bit of a stretch.

    Scott Brick did an excellent job as the narrator, winning me over after a previous performance reading a book I couldn't finish because it was so bad. I hesitated when I saw his name, but there was no need,,,,he did a stellar job. The author too did an excellent job writing a very accessible book from a lot of well researched material.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Scarborough, ON, Canada 09-30-05
    Paul Scarborough, ON, Canada 09-30-05
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    "LONG- but interesting"

    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!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra Petaluma, CA, USA 11-05-03
    Debra Petaluma, CA, USA 11-05-03 Member Since 2007
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    "Fascinating!"

    I knew very little about the Chicago Exposition and nothing about H.H. Holmes before listening to this book. What a juxtaposition between the two stories - one of great deeds and triumph and the other of such horror and tragedy.

    20 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jeanne 12-22-14
    jeanne 12-22-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Very Boring"
    What would have made The Devil in the White City better?

    A reader who varied his voice or showed some excitement. Some dialogue in the book.


    What other book might you compare The Devil in the White City to and why?

    A text book.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Monotone with no material to help him out.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I think the history about Chicago was great, which was the main virtue of the book.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristin United States 01-01-14
    Kristin United States 01-01-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not really about what the title suggests"
    Would you try another book from Erik Larson and/or Scott Brick?

    Maybe from Erik Larson as an author. Scott Brick did a very good job with the narration.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Death by Black Hole


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    He did not distract from the book at all. He did what he could with the material.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    I had a reaction of more frustration and anger than anything else.


    Any additional comments?

    If had heard one more line about the plants and boats I was going to scream. The book is really about the World's Fair in Chicago with minor story parts inserted about H.H. Holmes, the book really does little to delve into the life and crimes of H.H. Holmes. The book focuses much more in depth detail on every aspect of the fair and especially the decorations and one particular designer. If you want to learn about the Chicago World's Fair this is a great book, if you want to learn about H.H. Holmes look somewhere else.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elena Chicago, IL, United States 02-22-12
    Elena Chicago, IL, United States 02-22-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Too much history too little H.H. Holmes"

    I got it b/c I wanted to learn about the "devil" instead the book is mostly about history and architecture.,

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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