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)
This book came to my attention after listening to an episode of a favorite podcast, Stuff You Missed In History Class. I came for the story of Holmes, but got so much more history, on a subject on which I had no prior working knowledge: the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Larson expertly weaves back and forth through the development of the fair and the development of Holmes as serial killer. So many times while listening, I could picture exactly what was described. Rich in detail and short on editorializing, Larson's narrative just sweeps us as the audience through this world, stopping here and there for little pieces of info that otherwise would be overlooked. Scott Brick is a favorite narrator of mine, and he did not disappoint here. Highly recommend!
Scott Brick puts me to sleep. Narrator's narrator be damned.
I acknowledge that the author states this is two stories but golly at least let them tie in together at some point. I feel tricked into believing this was actually a true crime novel like what Olsen or Bledsoe would give. This however is an architectural recount of the Chicago fair and then a few pages of some serial killer operating in Chicago about that time.
With this mess I really doubt it .
Scott Brick generally puts me to sleep. I assume narrators get these books before hand and get to know the story and the characters before going on to record. Scott Brick on the other hand, seems like he just lays in bed with a tape recorder and is finding out the plot with you as he reads along.
Harsh it may seem,but I really have to agree with the reviewer who says he is illiterate . I go hard on Scott Brick because for a couple of years now he has been touted as the narrator's narrator and I just don't hear it in his work .
Here,the narration lifeless, no awareness of punctuation marks and their meaning when reading. Every sentence is somehow an exclamation like he is reading a bed time story with forest creatures.A not so good book further ruined by poor narration .
...as a person who grew up in Wilmette, IL, it's very hard to hear the narrator pronounce it "wil-MEAT" over and over again. It's "Wil-MET".
No, it's too long.
It's not high up on the list, I'll say that.
The story is really really detailed, which is nice, but makes it feel drawn out. The reading is also quite monotone. I wouldn't recommend it as a roadtrip book since it might make you fall asleep.
The story was a slow mover and so was the reading... so yeah.
The description of the woman's death inside the improvised gas chamber, leaving her footprint on the wall was particularly moving.
The reader is fantastic, I was completely taken in by the great performance. The story appeals to me because of the marvelous weaving of construction, show business, and psychopathic behavior in a manner that is rare and remains entertaining throughout. The epilogue and post epilogue are not to be missed. He sums up the book and describes the incredible hands-on research the author did to arrive at such a well told and accurate story. No guessing, or second hand information, he got the facts correct. From prime sources. Great contribution to American history and literature in my opinion. And to architecture and city planning trades -- and how difficult it is to do something great. There are so many against it, particularly accountants and bankers. But Burnham and his dedicated followers would not relent and gave us, perhaps, the largest and best Worlds Fair ever. A landmark in the development of beautiful places to move America closer to Europe's concept of wonderful public spaces.
The architectural descriptions and emotional transfers to the listener. However, the gruesome parts are a bit too gruesome, I had to turn down the volume and not-listen to the most graphic 20 minutes (scattered throughout the book). But in the end, I was uplifted by the story of the bad guy's capture.
His great grasp of language and the skill at giving us just enough emotion to get the point across without over-doing it. Never boring, always listenable. He is 5-star. I have not listened to any of his other performances.
The closing ceremonies description and the descriptions of what went on in the Rookery (a building that is still standing, and in someone pristine condition). The ending wrap of of how Sol Blume went from poverty to riches and back again -- and then on to greater things. That is an uplifting thought, you can be up or down, but in the end, it is your mental attitude and learning from all experiences that builds a person to make an even great contribution to mankind while pursuing somewhat self interests.
Few will regret listening to this book, but the graphic details are too much for young people, so the book loses the potential to be a high school "read". Yet, without the Devil in the story, it might be good history reading for teens and young adults. It is a graphic and memorable warning that psychopaths can fool just about anyone. We all have to stay a bit on guard. "I never suspected him" is ringing in my ears -- as that's why psychopaths can achieve so much mayhem before being uncovered (often accidentally). They are such good liers and deceivers no one can imagine their evil intentions.
This book sort of surprised me - didn't know that it intertwined the building of the Chicago's World Fair and the story of a mass murderer (all of it true) into a book. It wasn't as good as the other Erik Larson books I've read, but given that I'm not into murder mysteries I made it through and it was pretty good. If you're interested in architecture or the city of Chicago back in the late 1800s, it's quite fascinating.
Professor of American and World History at a community college. Enjoys hard science fiction, space fantasy and space opera, fantasy, and historical narratives. Heck, I'll read anything once!
I would, in that it encourages you to slow down and pay attention. This book is chock full of so many details that if you blank out, you'll miss something. Fortunately, the story, events, and characters involved (all real and un-embellished) are sufficiently gripping that fading out is unlikely!
It's a slow build, but the gradual reveal of just how terrible and terrifying Dr. H.H. Holmes really was is very memorable. Most of the book builds detail upon detail, not just of the events of the Columbian Exposition, but also of the growing madness and murder of Holmes. The eventual reveal of both is splendid.
The book isn't really scenic in its construction. It's more a pair of steady, building narratives describing two events co-mingling in both time and location. This isn't fiction, it's a historical narrative of actual events. What's so endearing and intriguing about it is the lack of embellishment--every event you hear is real.
I'd never done much research of study into the events of H.H. Holmes. The idea that here was not only our first known serial killer but, still to this day, possibly our most prolific. Jack the Ripper, pheh!
Lovely narration, solid information, steady drumbeat pacing. All in all, an excellent listen!
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