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.
"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)
Audio Addict! Usually listening to History these days. Love Will Durant most of all authors!
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.
Retired former magazine editor who is working harder than ever as Mr. Dad to his 13-year-old daughter.
I'm sure people who loved this book will disagree with me but my expectations were far from met after wading through 15 hours of listening. I thought the connection between H.H. Holmes and the Chicago World's Fair was tedious at best. Larson might have done just as well to insert a photo of a scantily clad girl from the gay '90s every 25 pages or so. Of course, that would have proved problematic for Audible customers. If you like "architectural talk" and the behind-the-scences motivations of those involved in the trade, then this is a book for you. That's especially true if you also like a sprinkling of "serial killer story" with your description of building and landscape architecture. This book was well researched and well written, hence the three stars. It just wasn't for me. (The last 50 minutes summarized the first 14 hours and would have sufficed.)
Husband, Dad, Principal, Adjunct prof, RC Deacon, radio co-host, story teller, NYer, walker, & occasional sipper of fine whisk(e)y,
The work is very interesting but lacked an intertwining I was expecting. The stories run side by side. It had me through out piece, but wanted more!
This book was more about the worlds fair anything to do with Holmes. It read more like a list of dry facts rather than an interesting recounting of Holmes' activities.
Stepped away from this one after listeneing for about three hours. Maybe I'll go back to it later and it will get better. Pretty slow, narraration made me feel sleepy and unfocused. Couldn't really get into the actual story.
This is a wonderfully engaging story and you'll learn a tremendous amount about the time period and players involved in two very different but very massive undertakings in Chicago around the eve of the Worlds Fair. The true historical events are told as compellingly (and in the style of) a novel. As a result it is a very easy to digest read but one I feel the writer, by nature, has had to take liberties filling in gaps. When we step inside the heads of some characters, or we hear intimate details of moments before some horrible murder (most of, if not all Holmes took to his execution) we have to assume more than a hundred years time lapse has earned Mr.Larson some wiggle room. My only complaint is he isn't more upfront regarding it, and doesn't often take time to differentiate when having to speculate. That being said take the story as a whole as truth, and the details 90% truth as well. It's a very very well researched true fiction novel, but not a textbook and not a definitive source for scholars to reference, in my opinion. The narration is perfect and condones a perfect mood of grandeur and determination to the subject matter. I suggest it to almost anyone.
I think I had the same caption for another Erok Larson book. Mother books are meticulously researched, and interesting, but they tend to run on past the point of interesting. I learned a lot, but I finished as and act of will, and not because the story compelled me. If you liked Larsons other work, you'll like this one too.
Enjoyed the history and commingling of historical events surrounding the fair. There is so much I didn't know or realize about the time, especially in Chicago, and I must visit Jackson Park next time I'm there.
At times the architecture bits got draggy but Holmes bits were always interesting in a macabre way. The reader's over dramatic style of voicing the text was the only real draw back.
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