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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 (5386 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Carol 09-29-12
    Carol 09-29-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Captivating - richly textured"
    What made the experience of listening to The Devil in the White City the most enjoyable?

    The story included such a wide range of interconnected stories: the first Farris wheel, america's first recorded cereal killer, landscape design, ambitions and city politics. It was very compelling.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    scott chicago, IL, United States 09-18-12
    scott chicago, IL, United States 09-18-12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
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    Story
    "Kinda boring"

    The story is interesting especially since I am from Chicago. The part of the story about the building of Chicago is very detailed and gets boring and drawn out, in my opinion. The other part of the story about HH Holmes is much more interesting. Too much blah blah blah about Burnham and the "white city." If you are not from Chicago or the city has no real significance to the you, then I think you will find this book boring.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alanna 09-10-12
    Alanna 09-10-12
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    Story
    "Must read for Chicagoans"
    Where does The Devil in the White City rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Although I haven't listened to many audiobooks thus far, I really enjoyed The Devil in the White City. It's especially great for those folks living in Chicago. Easy to listen to on audio.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Scott Brick?

    I would avoid it.


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

    Yes.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick BEAVERTON, OR, United States 09-03-12
    Patrick BEAVERTON, OR, United States 09-03-12 Member Since 2012
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    "History is better than fiction"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I found this story a spell binding page turner. You don't know what to expect at every turn of the plot. I also learned so much detail on the Chicago World Fair and how it was a miracle it was ever pulled off by the city. Larson tells a great story and I loved his use of language.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Larson does a good in depth description of each of the main characters come alive with their strengths and faults. they are a real today as they were 110 years ago


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    From the opening page.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Carrier Mills, IL, United States 08-27-12
    Julie Carrier Mills, IL, United States 08-27-12

    Ima Bee

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    Story
    "Unbelievable !"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes ! It was just so unbelievable what went on behind the scenes at the World's Fair.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Devil in the White City?

    Just the whole background on the planning of the fair.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It was so interesting I could barely stop listening !


    Any additional comments?

    One of my top five reads (listens) !

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Hartford, CT, United States 08-20-12
    John Hartford, CT, United States 08-20-12 Member Since 2011
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    9
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    Story
    "History and Storytelling at it's best"
    Where does The Devil in the White City rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This book ranks pretty well compared to otherhistory books I've read. The author is not quite as good as David McCullough but who is?


    Any additional comments?

    Well researched. Loads of detail. A great primer on the exposition and Chicago of the late 19th century.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonny London, England 08-20-12
    Jonny London, England 08-20-12 Member Since 2011
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    Story
    "Interesting and entertaining"
    What made the experience of listening to The Devil in the White City the most enjoyable?

    It was a good historical novel.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    Slow moving, but always with a bit of suspence in the background


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

    a bit long for one sitting, but I did go through it pretty quickly


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Inez San Diego, CA, United States 08-06-12
    Inez San Diego, CA, United States 08-06-12 Member Since 2010
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    Story
    "At least half was interesting"
    Any additional comments?

    There is no denying that this was an incredibly well researched book, but totally redundant. I get it. The World's Colombian Exposition was riddled with difficulties! I get it. They were all stressed out about it.
    The story line of HH Holmes was much more interesting and stayed listening for his story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Todd Ludington, MI, United States 07-31-12
    Todd Ludington, MI, United States 07-31-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating look at history!"
    What did you love best about The Devil in the White City?

    The stress and strain that Daniel Burnham went through to get the Worlds Fair done! Herculean task!


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    Holmes! Just bizarre how was able to manipulate so many people! The Holmes murder castle is just the most unique floor plan ever built!


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Welcome to Holmes Hotel! We'll leave the "GAS" light on for you!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian United States 07-12-12
    Brian United States 07-12-12
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    "An Unusual Story, Well Told"

    This book helped enhance my interest in this era of American history (I have much greater familiarity with postwar history) and I found myself consulting maps and looking up various names as I listened. I could take or leave the serial killer aspect of the book, but found it interesting and (for the most part) effectively integrated into the flow of the overall story. The strength of the book was Larson's capacity to make the details of life in the 1890s come to life...the intriguing mix of similarities and differences between that era and the present day....and to feel some sense of the awe and attraction fair-goers must have felt when they visited this exposition. Civic boosterism, the fascination with new technology, and the bold spirit to create something bigger and more breathtaking than had been experienced before (along with the series of hurdles standing in the way of achieving those goals) makes for an engaging story. Great narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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