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The Devil in the White City Audiobook

The Devil in the White City

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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

4.2 (12016 )
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4.4 (9008 )
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Performance
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  •  
    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!

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel Mill Valley, CA, United States 09-06-12
    Joel Mill Valley, CA, United States 09-06-12

    Me, myself, and I.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    170
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    14
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    Story
    "An Astounding Listen"

    You might not be able to tell from my previous reviews, given that I have heaped praise on a number of books here, but I am pretty picky. If I don't like something, if I am struggling to get through it, I just stop. What is left are books that I find generally engaging, fascinating, and overall an enjoyable experience.

    Topping just about everything I've listened to in the past 12 months or so that I've been a member is this nearly perfect story. Erik Larson's narrative non-fiction is among the best available in any form. This story of the interweaving of herculean city building and evil incarnate is nearly unbelievable. Neither story feels like it could have taken place in the reality we inhabit. But as we all too often know, real life can be quite jarring, unbelievable, and amazing.

    So it is with the most fervent recommendation that I suggest you read/listen to this book. Do it because the writing is impeccable. Do it because Erik Larson has set a new standard for whatever genre this actually falls into. And do it because you will finish the book with a newfound appreciation for Chicago, its roots, and the work of men to build things, discover things, and, ultimately, be greater than human in a time that often tried to stop them from doing so.

    Oh, and Scott Brick is fantastic here. I want to say more about his reading, but the quality of the overall work itself drawfs anything else in its wake. Just know that Scott Brick does a great job, and his work here is another reason that I seek out books that he narrates, just as I do with a few other top-tier readers.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ashly 01-31-17
    Ashly 01-31-17 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "It's not the gripping, but it's still good"
    If you could sum up The Devil in the White City in three words, what would they be?

    I initially wanted to read this book because I have a fascination with HH Holmes and the year that the World's Fair descended upon Chicago. The book can get a bit bogged down in unnecessary details, while tending to give a lackluster focus on the actual man himself. I was hoping for more of a narrative on the extremely strange and rare set of circumstances that birthed America's first recorded serial killer, but instead, I got extremely detailed information of building specs for the hotel and an unusually large amount of data on the area at the time. It got a bit boring.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    I was hoping for more of a narrative on the extremely strange and rare set of circumstances that birthed America's first recorded serial killer


    If you could give The Devil in the White City a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Building America's first serial killer


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    The Amester 11-04-16
    The Amester 11-04-16

    The Amester

    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    "Turning History into Tedium"

    I was massively disappointed in this book. The narrator, Scott Brick, is great as always. But, the writing and storytelling were sub-par. I was very interested in the topic and had looked forward to learning about something brand new.
    As soon as the narrative began, I realized that the author was caught between telling a story and retelling history. He failed at both. Attempts to create suspense fell flat because he was recounting known historical facts. Attempts to create character-depth fell flat because he could only have them speak in the small snippets of dialogue culled from historical documents. Not one person seemed real to me and yet they were all historical figures! Because the author stuck by historical facts and evidence only, he hobbled his own freedom to create vibrant people which I could care about. Larson ends up describing people, describing their words and describing their actions. It didn't seem that the characters were actual people, speaking and acting.
    I was fascinated by the fair but the author dragged me into minutiae that felt irrelevant to the story. And, I'm generally a great lover of minutiae.
    The murderous Holmes was approached and described as though the author himself were a product of the end of the nineteenth century - constrained by prim social mores and avoiding saying anything crude, explicit or graphic about the murderer. It takes a true lack of writing talent to turn a vile killer into a tedious character.
    I suspect that most other listeners will disagree with my point of view. But, two very exciting subjects were ground into a fine dust of tedium by Erik Larson.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sgonk New York, NY USA 11-02-15
    sgonk New York, NY USA 11-02-15 Member Since 2015

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    44
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    Story
    "Sacred and Profane"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I'd definitely recommend this. The story is--stories are--incredible and opposite. The "sacred" story tells of human achievement while the "profane" story describes the behavior of an unbelievably evil person.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The book does a really good job providing details so that the listener can easily imagine living in Chicago in the second half of the 19th century--what it was like if you had money, and what it was like if you didn't. I almost hesitate to say it--but details may also be a weakness of the book. I felt that sometimes the inclusion of so many details turned portions of the book into pure lists of information.


    What does Scott Brick bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Scott's voice is pleasant and clear. I would have like a little faster pace.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Plenty of moments in this book--both sacred (especially passages about Olmstead)--and profane (almost all of the book that wasn't about building the Fair)--moved me.


    Any additional comments?

    There are many ways to learn about the events in this book--but if you don't know the story of the Colombian Exposition, or if you don't know the story of H.H. Holmes--start here! And, if you do, listen to this anyway...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JoAnne M in Houston, TX Texas 05-02-15 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not interesting to me."

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Rich-Motis 03-19-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Much todo about not much"

    Two unique stories with little relevance to each other. Either would have been good in their own right but together, not so much .

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lynn louisville, Cayman Islands 03-19-15
    lynn louisville, Cayman Islands 03-19-15 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
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    "A couple notches lower than "meh""

    I wanted to like this. I tried. Great topic, interesting situation. Maybe it was better as a book. For me it felt like reading a map or 14 hours of "A +B-W= h and then Q\W".
    Hours and hours.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jeanne 12-22-14
    jeanne 12-22-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    101
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    1
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    Story
    "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.


    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Muravyav USA 11-29-14
    Martin Muravyav USA 11-29-14 Listener Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
    ratings
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    39
    37
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    5
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    "Outstanding!"
    Where does The Devil in the White City rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Probably one of my favorites. It was VERY well done.


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Scott Brick – was your favorite?

    Holmes.....he did make him charmingly smarmy


    If you could give The Devil in the White City a new subtitle, what would it be?

    I can't think of a better one actually


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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