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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 (5797 )
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  •  
    Stanley New York, NY, USA 10-20-07
    Stanley New York, NY, USA 10-20-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Masterful tour-de-force"

    I'm late catching this book, but am I ever glad that I finally acted on my friends' recommendations. If you're interested in 20th century American history -- or simply in histories and the ways their elements interact -- I can't see you going wrong with this one.

    Who knew a history of the early 20th century in Illinois could bring together Mark Twain, cracker jack, Susan B. Anthony, Gentelman Jim Corbett, Woodrow Wilson, Shredded Wheat, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Clarence Darrow, Walt Disney, Theodore Dreiser, Leopold & Loeb, the electric chair, the ferris wheel, and even the Keeley Gold Cure.

    It's a well read tale, a fascinating examination of "the fair that changed America," chock full of surprising information.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Dale Harrison CARROLLTON, TX, US 05-08-07
    Michael Dale Harrison CARROLLTON, TX, US 05-08-07 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
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    4
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    "Awesome Read"

    Excellent work of history. So many fascinating details and great character studies. Very worth the time invested.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dianna B. Johnston Alexandria, Va United States 03-09-07
    Dianna B. Johnston Alexandria, Va United States 03-09-07 Member Since 2010

    DBJ

    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    "Spellbinding"

    These intersecting stories about the building of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and a serial murderer are equally riveting and work perfectly together. The book is both entertaining and educational; a fascinating slice of American history!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Chavez Huntington Beach, CA USA 12-08-06
    P. Chavez Huntington Beach, CA USA 12-08-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    114
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    37
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    3
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    "Interesting"

    This is one of those books that even though it might not be a favorite book, it's one you are glad you read. I really never knew anything about the Chicago fair or the Farris wheel. After listening to the book, I looked up the old pictures on the computer...just amazing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Charlotte, NC, United States 07-31-06
    Michael Charlotte, NC, United States 07-31-06 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unexpect"

    Although the book was an excellent book about the Worlds Fair. Title and blurb about the book was a little missleading. The book was more about the worlds fair than about the "devil". I expected details concerning H.H. Holmes. Instead I was given amazing insight into the construction and the logistics of designing and building the 1892 worlds fair. This book would have been better if it had been title The White City and dropped the devil part.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia West Palm Beach, FL, USA 07-22-06
    Cynthia West Palm Beach, FL, USA 07-22-06 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Piqued my interest in the Chicago World's Fare"

    This was a most unexpected "read". The story of the Chicago World's Fair surprised me. I knew of the Fair, but the impact of this place and time on the history of the United States was amazing. I never had given any thought to the origins of the Ferris wheel and the amusement parks of today. Fascinating....

    Also, I had never heard of HH Holmes... grusome as his deeds were, it was a compelling story. I think that the fact that it really happened was the strangest twist.

    I am so glad Scott Brick narrated this unabridged version. I am glad I didn't opt for the abridged version, I would not have wanted to miss a single word.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Whitewater, CO, USA 12-07-05
    Eric Whitewater, CO, USA 12-07-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    3
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    "Interesting history"

    The book in set in Chicago during the late 1800's and covers the World's Fair, politics of the day, architecture and murder. Overall I rated the book as three stars. At times it is very, very slow (I have listened to The History of Rome Vol I and II and believe me when I say I know slow). However the author has done a good job of describing the events of the day and I believe the actual book has photos that would help the reader get a sense of what he's talking about (which is of no use in an audio format).

    If you are looking for a suspense novel this one isn't for you. If you want a book with history and a little intrigue then I would recommend it. Happy Listening

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcia okla city, OK, United States 10-22-05
    Marcia okla city, OK, United States 10-22-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating!"

    Someone should make a movie of this book. I am listening to it for the second time. The narration was excellent! The Guilded Age is fascinating and the author's account of the Exposition and the maniac was VERY well done. I look forward to more of his work. History and high mystery - it doesn't get any better than this.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George J. Vournazos 04-20-05 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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!

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katkillr Arlington, VA USA 12-31-04
    Katkillr Arlington, VA USA 12-31-04 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An excellent way to start"

    This was my first entry into the land of audiobooks and I picked a gem. The author makes what could have been a dry and difficult read into an interesting and exciting narrative. He moves through the complex of lives touched by the events surrounding the 1993 Columbian Exhibition seamlessly. It delves into such varied areas as architecture, engineering, landscaping, city management, politics, social structure and forensic and criminal investigation, showing how each connects to the story and holding the interest of the reader thoughout. The narration of the book is clear and easy to listen to. All in all an excellent audiobook!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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