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)
I had great hopes for this book, especially after reading all the rave reviews. Unfortunately I found this book to be boring. The story if H. H. Holmes has always fascinated me despite the accompanying gruesome content. I was disappointed to discover the the majority of the book covered the World's Fair. Some of the content regarding the World's Fair was interesting, but most of it was a snooze fest and very difficult to get through. There was very little focus on Holmes, and the content on Holmes was vague and flat. I personally found his Wikipedia article to be more interesting than the content in this book. This book should have been titled "The World's Fair in the White City."
A voracious reader; Lover of Literary Fiction; I also enjoy a good Mystery; Still, self help works have a place. Books. I love them all!
The devil in this book was the pained way in which the author detailed exceptionally boring information. He allowed no excuse to feel affection for any of Holmes' victims or in any aspect of the parallel story line.
Truly, Hands down top Two worse Audio books I've ever purchased. The Return feature is critical to me because I don't want this drivel sitting in my library conjuring memories of the abject pain to which it subjected me as I scroll through, with pride, in review of my mounting number of completed audio reads.
Devil is a historical overview of the Chicago World Fair in the late 1800s. By the middle to end of the book the story line (Ha!!) is almost entirely comprised of excruciating detail of every pipe laid and every screw purchased in connection with this great exhibition in American history. Significantly less of the story covers Holmes and his inner Devil.
That the Holmes story itself is fascinating (he makes calling him evil, a neutral observation) is enough to trick you into sticking with the book through to the middle (although, it could be that you have an unhealthy penchant for self inflicted pain as I've come to find out about myself in this read).
I went online and read again re Holmes. Very little additional information on Dr. Holmes/Midgett is available in this book that you can't easily find on the internet and speed read -- if becoming a scholar on the subject would interest you - in the inside of one hour.
Not have Larkson's publishers market Devil as a story involving MAGIC and Chilling Suspense. It is a history text. The relevant (debatable) history is laid out here in plain, un-flourished prose. You know, like a wikipedia entry. Not necessary to bound all of this
information in novel form.
The book is an amalgamation of journal entries. We're given date and month and then facts regarding what took place during that pocket of time. Its great organization but uninventive. He might as well had just created dialogue. Tell a story. I love historical fiction. I think an opportunity to embellish and instigate that magic and thrill that is promised on the book's cover was lost.
The narrator did nothing to help us. He could have inflicted an accent - though in fairness there is not a stitch of dialogue. None. Just a stiff reading of newspaper articles throughout the book, mercifully peppered with a retelling of a few anecdotes I also found online.
There are meticulous dates and there are facts. Abstract facts about the Holmes story line. Unyielding detail about the construction of the World Exhibit and the labor/economics of Chicago in the 1890s.
Not very many people care about the construction details of the World Fair Exhibition. I'd encapsulate that information with considerably more brevity.
No. I am just glad it's over. Onward and Upward I promise, since it will be hard for a book to out-bad this one.
If you're looking for the dark story of a serial killer who used architecture to further his murderous lust ... Then buy a book on H.H.Holmes. If you're looking for a book on the Chicago worlds fair and how it effected American architecture then find a book on that. These two stories only cross paths in the sense only that they happened at the same time and place and that any gathering on this grand scale affords many people a chance to indulge in nefarious ways. If you're not interested in both subjects you'll most likely find yourself waiting for chapters regarding one or the other.
O..and the narrators cadence becomes almost cliche and then even annoying like being on a small boat subjected to a constant and never changing ebb and flow . But that could be because I got so bored with facts about the worlds fair.
Psychopaths are just way more interesting than city planners and architects. But thats just me.
I think the only things holding me back from saying this was great are the expectations I had going in. This was a much broader story than I was expecting. I do feel like the title paints a picture of a more focussed story though, which isn't really what you get.
Great storytelling and interesting how the time line of the Columbian exhibition and Holmes plans laid together. I wish it had been more focused on Holmes... But I get that this is a movie waiting to be made.
Larson knows how to convey history in a very interesting way. You won't be bored with this book. He mixes history the pluses and the tantalizing minuses together with deaft skill.
I really never knew about the Chicago World Fair until this book. unbelievable feats those humans achieved in the 18th century. they were also very young for their age. as for Holmes, what a murderous cunning smooth asshole psycho.
The story is interesting and while long and detailed (especially about the fair) it kept my interest.
The writing on the other hand is annoying, with false suspense and cliches that detract from one's enjoyment of the book.
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