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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 (6021 )
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4.3 (3539 )
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3 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Jack Charlotte, NC, United States 08-05-13
    Jack Charlotte, NC, United States 08-05-13 Member Since 2014

    That most precious of all commodities, time, is often mis-allocated against our will. With Audible, I simply "re-allocate".

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Grim and Fascinating"

    This detailed historical account of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the parallel story of what may be the first documented account of a serial killer is like mixing something tart and sweet to the taste buds. Erik Larson combines remarkable historical research to highlight the impact that the Chicago World's Fair has had on our lives as well as the gruesome story of the serial killer who hid in plain sight among the activity of that time period in Chicago.

    Larson cuts no corners in describing through literary illustration the furious path taken in all forms of development of the city on a remarkably short time-line and the innovations that evolved in architecture, construction, landscaping and technology to prepare for the event. All occurring coincident with the global financial crisis at the same time.

    His profiles of Daniel Burnham and the men who made it happen is thorough providing the required background to help appreciate what drove them to take on the challenge.

    At the same time, Larson masterfully weaves into the story the brutal murders of people unlucky enough to cross paths with Henry Holmes. Holmes ability to carry on his dark activities was owed in no small part to the activities of the time in Chicago which attracted many to the city.

    As always, Scott Brick's narration of the book is engaging and flawless.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Molly Goshen, IN, United States 07-27-13
    Molly Goshen, IN, United States 07-27-13

    Wazoo Books

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Chicago 1893~Serial Killer Holmes~ 4 STAR"

    PLOT: serial killer uses the Chicago Worlds Fair to STALK his Prey~ BASED on a real person HH HOLMES~

    1893 Chicago ~ Dr. HH Holmes~ is a serial killer~ using many means including cons and theft he builds a block long "home". the home has killing rooms to GAS his unsuspecting victims. and the BASEMENT is a dungeon like place with a "glass furnace" but is used to "dispose" of the bodies. This is told like a docudrama. We see actual events based on history including the Worlds Fair and how Dr. Holmes uses the large number of people who come to Chicago to be a part of the fair to "lure" into his killing spree. Dr. HH Holmes is both a con artist and physician who uses his skills to lure and get rid of his victims for years. When he finally is drawn into a CON of a insurance company THE wife of the victim looks for the husband and after he never shows up along with the two daughters the law arrests Dr. Holmes. Back when forensics were not even using finger prints the Bodies are the only way to convict any one of the crime Dr. Holmes is a very slick man. but a detective used the letters of the two "missing " daughters to track down the girls and discovers a home in Toronto where he finds the bodies in a shallow basement grave. The story is both real and yet we hear so little about this crime til this book. This is a very excellent audio book. I give the Story 4 and performance 4 STARS but the story is so good I give it over all 5 stars due to the ending of the audio keeps you glued. It starts out a little slow but the last 2 hours are unbelievable Shocking. Good story and very good audiobook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 07-21-13
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 07-21-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Not as good as I was expecting"

    This book came strongly recommended to me by my father. I certainly did not like it as much as he did. I found the story around the building of the World’s Fair and Chicago to be quite dry and only moderately interesting for my taste—almost textbook(ish). The story around the serial killer H.H. Holmes was much stickier but still not enough to carry this book to 4 stars. I have listened to many books that Scott Brick as narrated; he is one of the best.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eliot louisville, KY, United States 07-12-13
    Eliot louisville, KY, United States 07-12-13
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    "good book"
    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    Weaving in and out of the history and the killing and the worlds fair just really seemed to make me want more.


    Have you listened to any of Scott Brick’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    If there was ever a book about my life, I would want scott brick to be the narrator


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet Wilmington, NC, United States 07-04-13
    Janet Wilmington, NC, United States 07-04-13 Member Since 2012

    Divorce attorney needing a break from reality!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "History Text Book"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    If the friend wanted to read a historical reference book - yes. If they wanted a story about the fair and first serial killer - no.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Erik Larson again?

    Maybe - if the historical content was interesting to me.


    Did Scott Brick do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    No, not really. I kept getting confused by who was who as the voices did not change.


    Could you see The Devil in the White City being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Only if they wrote more of a story line for the characters (other than the serial killer), yes. Just as a historical story - maybe a made-for-TV movie on the history channel.


    Any additional comments?

    This is basically a historical reference novel. The author did his historical research, but the characters did not come to life for me. There was not really any interpersonal relationships between the characters (even in the different sections). This would have been a better book to read than to listen to. That is a first for me!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Doylestown PA, United States 07-01-13
    Kim Doylestown PA, United States 07-01-13
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    Story
    "chilling"
    What did you love best about The Devil in the White City?

    H.H. Holmes was a master sociopath. A charming monster.


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

    Scott Brick did an excellent job of bringing the perfect amount of intensity and grimness to the reading of this story.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Too long and too fact heavy for a single sitting listen.


    Any additional comments?

    History at it's most grim and fascinating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yvonne Charlotte, NC, United States 06-22-13
    Yvonne Charlotte, NC, United States 06-22-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Should have been 2 books"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    This book should have actually been 2 books. One book about the architecture and building of the World's Fair. One book about the serial killer. There was not enough detail about the murders or suspected murders. I with the book was more of a thriller than a biography of the people who built the World's Fair.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    aus_books 06-17-13
    aus_books 06-17-13
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    "Thoroughly engaging, thrilling and deeply sad"
    Any additional comments?

    This audio book is first-rate and Scott Brick does and excellent job of narrating it. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pat 05-23-13
    Pat 05-23-13 Member Since 2015
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    "An Exceptional Read!"

    I loved the diversity of this book. The story of the killer competes nicely with the story of the World's Fair. Both story lines are exceptional and create a riveting book I couldn't put down.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis Charlestown, MA, United States 05-06-13
    Dennis Charlestown, MA, United States 05-06-13 Member Since 2014

    Born and raised in the Charlestown section of Boston. Irish-American, music (punk rock), crime & history, or anything having to do with those are my favorite subjects.

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    "Not enough 'Devil' - Too much 'White City'"

    I had heard about these killings & their gruesome nature before, Also how he used the World's Fair to cover them up...however I thought this book got too much into the World's Fair angle. In my opinion, I believe a lot of time was wasted on the architecture & building problems & the minutiae of the Fair and not enough time was spent on this serial killer. I found myself losing interest in the chapters having to do only with the Fair.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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