The Devil in the White City Audiobook | Erik Larson | Audible.com
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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‚Äôs 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 (4042 )
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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 2001
    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.

    132 of 136 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Audra Toronto, ON, Canada 10-13-03
    Audra Toronto, ON, Canada 10-13-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    36 of 40 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paulette CA, United States 10-27-09
    Paulette CA, United States 10-27-09 Member Since 2004

    Always a reader, now a listener as well!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    21 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mm 03-03-09
    mm 03-03-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Learned details of Chicago Worlds Fair"

    If you are just interested in detailed history of the people who developed the Chicago Worlds Fair, then you may like this audiobook. I thought that the characaters were quite boring. Even the serial killer's story was quite ho hum to me.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra Petaluma, CA, USA 11-05-03
    Debra Petaluma, CA, USA 11-05-03 Member Since 2002
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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.

    17 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Scarborough, ON, Canada 09-30-05
    Paul Scarborough, ON, Canada 09-30-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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!

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 08-12-13
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 08-12-13 Member Since 2010

    Audio-addict!!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointing, repetitive, anticlimactic"

    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.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George J. Vournazos 04-20-05 Member Since 2005
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    "A Must For All Chicagoans!"

    This book was fascinating! As a life long resident of Chicago, I found this book to be a must read. It lead to a wealth of emotions from pride in the "Chicago spirit" which accomplished and continues to accomplish great things to the disgust at the lax manner in which human life was treated at that time. Contrary to what some reviewers wrote, I found the detail to paint a rich and deep picture of that time that reflected the spirit and mood of the Era, not only in Chicago, but the country as well. Highly recommended!

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    heather Pleasantville 03-16-14
    heather Pleasantville 03-16-14 Member Since 2007

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "White noise is better"
    What did you like best about The Devil in the White City? What did you like least?

    If I had been born with a love for fair architecture, I would have loved this book. However I was not. I was looking for a book on crime not the building of "White City" fair so I disliked about fifty percent of this wordy book.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Not much, relief it had an ending.


    Was The Devil in the White City worth the listening time?

    Some would say so I say no.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was flashy but failed to meet up to its title.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 01-15-12
    Ted Lancaster, PA, United States 01-15-12 Member Since 2010

    Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sadly.... Booring"

    I wanted to like this. The period... characters.... mystery... and CHICAGO as it becomes a butterfly. But Scott Brick's portentousness, coupled with ho-hum writing made it slower than a sloth in syrup. It reminded me of why reading high school history was work.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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