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The Devil in the White City Audiobook

The Devil in the White City

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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

4.2 (10012 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Alia Armure 12-15-15
    Alia Armure 12-15-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Engrossing and illuminating"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Big Smella 12-15-15
    Big Smella 12-15-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Prose so beautiful like music to my ears."

    read this book years ago loved it. so wonderful to revisit on audio like listening to a symphony on an old record player

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Ese Houston, TX, United States 12-14-15
    Ese Houston, TX, United States 12-14-15 Member Since 2016

    Scott Brick puts me to sleep. Narrator's narrator be damned.

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    "Scott Brick reading an architectural digest...."
    Would you try another book from Erik Larson and/or Scott Brick?

    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.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Erik Larson again?

    With this mess I really doubt it .


    What didn’t you like about Scott Brick’s performance?

    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 .


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-11-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Great story, but..."
    What did you love best about The Devil in the White City?

    ...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".


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

    No, it's too long.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica 12-10-15
    Jessica 12-10-15 Member Since 2014
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    "A real slow mover..."
    Where does The Devil in the White City rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It's not high up on the list, I'll say that.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    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.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The story was a slow mover and so was the reading... so yeah.


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

    The description of the woman's death inside the improvised gas chamber, leaving her footprint on the wall was particularly moving.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Lindsey D Boozer Columbia, SC, US 12-08-15
    Lindsey D Boozer Columbia, SC, US 12-08-15 Member Since 2014
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    "One of the Best Stories of the Decade"
    Where does The Devil in the White City rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    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.


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

    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.


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

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Jeanne 12-06-15
    Jeanne 12-06-15
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    "Chicago's World Fair and A Murdere"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Cassondra 11-30-15
    Cassondra 11-30-15
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    "Moving pieces come together brilliantly"

    An expertly written account that reads like a novel but educates like history book. Pretty cool that the whole thing was done without Internet research!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 11-29-15
    David 11-29-15 Member Since 2013

    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!

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    "History done deep"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Devil in the White City to be better than the print version?

    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!


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

    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.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    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.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    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!


    Any additional comments?

    Lovely narration, solid information, steady drumbeat pacing. All in all, an excellent listen!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dmans Portland, OR 11-25-15
    dmans Portland, OR 11-25-15 Member Since 2016

    Love Audio books.

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    "Stunning piece of history"

    Great concept and execution. maybe it ran just a little long, but I still got to give it 5 stars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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