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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 (4428 )
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  •  
    Michael Dale Harrison CARROLLTON, TX, US 05-08-07
    Michael Dale Harrison CARROLLTON, TX, US 05-08-07 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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 2005

    DBJ

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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
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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
  •  
    Cayce Atlanta, GA, United States 10-07-06
    Cayce Atlanta, GA, United States 10-07-06 Member Since 2005
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    "Completely engrossing"

    This was one of the best books I've heard on Audible (and I listen to around 2 a week). True, there is a lot of detail, but unlike a few other readers, I didn't find one moment of it tedious.

    I, of course, had heard of the Columbian Exposition, but I had no idea what a large role it played in the history of Chicago or the country. The descriptions of the building of the fair, the social classes and the side story about the murders gave me a good feel for the time and the attitudes of the people who lived then. It was also interesting to hear about people like Olmstead and how he worked.

    I was fascinated by this book and spent a lot of time after I finished it looking at photos of the fair online.

    The whole thing was like one of those great New Yorker articles about something you know nothing about but, once introduced, can't get enough of.

    1 of 1 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 2004
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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
  •  
    Marcia okla city, OK, United States 10-22-05
    Marcia okla city, OK, United States 10-22-05
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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
  •  
    Patrick Lexington, SC, USA 02-11-05
    Patrick Lexington, SC, USA 02-11-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Devil in the White City"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katkillr Arlington, VA USA 12-31-04
    Katkillr Arlington, VA USA 12-31-04 Member Since 2004
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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
  •  
    Bob Tujunga, CA, USA 12-23-04
    Bob Tujunga, CA, USA 12-23-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Chilling"

    This book is creepy to read, but fascinating. It justaposes the wonders of the 1892 Columbian Exposition with a conscience-less serial murder, both of which are remarkable in many ways. Recommend if you have an interest in technology, architecture, and/or project planning, or crime (and have a strong stomach).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maria Knoxville, TN, USA 11-17-04
    Maria Knoxville, TN, USA 11-17-04
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    "Captivating!"

    I absolutely was enthralled in this book! It captivated my interest so much that I purchased a couple of more books on the Chicago World's Fair. An absolute must read for anyone who appreciates history!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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