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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 (5782 )
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4.3 (3317 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Robin Jacksonville, AL, United States 12-27-11
    Robin Jacksonville, AL, United States 12-27-11
    ratings
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    7
    6
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    Performance
    Story
    "Excellent, but grim"

    Riveting story. A lot of historical detail, which interests me. but disturbing. Definitely want more from this author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Weaverville, NC, United States 12-11-11
    Richard Weaverville, NC, United States 12-11-11 Member Since 2011

    Writer, Reader, Former Bookseller (RIP Borders)

    HELPFUL VOTES
    55
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    Story
    "Lives up to the hype! Very engaging."

    Brick (narrator) is well paired with this book and does an excellent job. The story brings to life a rarely highlighted but extraordinarily important time in the development of the American culture, and that's only the background to the real story! Fantastically done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    geoff statesville, NC, United States 12-03-11
    geoff statesville, NC, United States 12-03-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    33
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    30
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    Story
    "Captivating"

    This story could have been written as facts, it could have been written as two separate books all together unrelated, however when intertwined the stories keep you on the edge of your seat asking , did this really happen? Worth reading again.
    The narrator Scott Brick is truly gifted.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Auburn, CA, United States 11-30-11
    Patricia Auburn, CA, United States 11-30-11

    pjlyon

    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
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    "Not so Black & White"

    Scott Brick has one of those clear, easy to follow, professional sounding voices. While an interesting piece chocked full of historical information, sometimes the story line bogged down by way too many details.

    I liked the by-play, and juxtaposed images of the White City and the Devil. I intentionally look for audio books that are on the long side, but perhaps this story could be better served by a little condensing.

    Overall worth a listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Makeal Milwaukee, WI, United States 11-30-11
    Makeal Milwaukee, WI, United States 11-30-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Initial excitement, slightly let down."

    I thought that splitting the two story lines to be slightly distracting and left the impact of both stories a bit soft and droning. It felt as though the moment I was engulfed into one story line it would end and I would have to begin again. Well written no doubt and fascinating material but I felt that it didn't quite deliver. I usually am more into the book than the film but I am looking forward to how the film develops.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chad Muskegon, MI, United States 11-04-11
    Chad Muskegon, MI, United States 11-04-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    5
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    "Not as good as Thunderstruck"

    This book was okay, but I enjoyed Erik Larson's "Thunderstuck" much more. The connection between the two characters was much stronger, and the story had a better flow to it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Corinne Travelers Rest, SC, United States 11-02-11
    Corinne Travelers Rest, SC, United States 11-02-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Intriguing"

    Great narration. Loved the concept of the story and extremely intriguing. Sometimes slow and encumbered with all of the architectural descriptions and jargon. Overall, it was definitely worth my time.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Thibodeau South Pasadena, CA 10-20-11
    John Thibodeau South Pasadena, CA 10-20-11 Listener Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    4
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    Story
    "The White City"

    This book seemed like a great idea. Take two seemingly unrelated subjects, and weave their stories together. Unfortunately, this book is really only one story. The Devil part of the book is more like a footnote to the story of the fair, and the fair story can be fairly boring. I actually got through half the book, until I threw it in the waste basket (metophorically of course). Then I picked up the book six months later to try to finish it, and realized why I had destined it for the waste basket in the first place.

    I couldn't help feeling that Larson was inserting his own drama into the story, when the reality was much less exciting. Most the story is spent on Olmstead's (sp?) obsession with flowers and ferryboats (which by the way, is never resolved). There is a ton of drama built into the quest for the new Eifel tower, but when we finally get to the Ferris Wheel, Larson quickly changes to a different subject, and really never picks up that thread again.

    As an alternative I would recommend wikipedia.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. shinn CA, United States 09-20-11
    S. shinn CA, United States 09-20-11 Member Since 2011

    GFD

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wikipedia on Tape"

    After reading the glorious reviews for this book, I swiftly downloaded this book. I was hoping to be white-knuckled through out, because of the amazing history that had happened. Yet, I was so bored out of my mind, I struggled to finish it. I can see how people would have enjoyed this informative book, butwas listening to Wikipedia on Tape. It just felt like a book of facts with a little plot sprinkled here and there. I really tried to love this book, but it fall short of what could of been.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nixon Sundre, Alberta, Canada 09-05-11
    Nixon Sundre, Alberta, Canada 09-05-11 Member Since 2011
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    2
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    Story
    "Very Intresting"

    The book was very interesting. I never new about the fair or the amazing acts that had to take place for the fair to take place. As well I had never heard about the terrible mass murders that took place adjacent to the fair grounds at the same time in history. I found though the story in particular in regards to the murder portion a bit lacking through out the story with the fair taking the main story line and then all of a sudden at the end almost a rush to finish up the story about the the murder mystery portion of the book. All in all a pretty good read with a good narrator though and worth a person time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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