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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 (5586 )
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  •  
    Scott Roseville, CA, United States 02-17-09
    Scott Roseville, CA, United States 02-17-09

    Don't you just love a great story well told?

    HELPFUL VOTES
    660
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    "Yes 5 stars for History & Interest"

    This is NOT "fictionalized" history. As the writer himself says "Not a single word in quotes in this book comes from anywhere but a reliable documented source." (or words to that effect.) The second story (a parallel serial killer) is terrifying in how using his charm and good looks and twisted but intelligent brain smoothly killed countless women. This is a "MUST READ" book for anyone who wants to know about an amazing and very intense few years in our nation's history at the turn of the century when even common light bulbs and AC v. DC current (one had to be chosen for the "Fair") were new concepts for an entire world.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Burbank, CA, USA 02-16-09
    Kathleen Burbank, CA, USA 02-16-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An excellent read"

    The author skilfully weaves together two amazing stories. I was completely unaware of the Chicago Worlds Fair, but after reading the book I was so intrigued I had to google it for some pictures (the only downside of audible books: mental images only). The depravity of the "devil" is truly mind-boggling, and well documented by the author. Narrator Scott Brick does a sterling job, as always.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Sarver PA 11-04-08
    Carol Sarver PA 11-04-08 Member Since 2002
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    "Great History"

    I bought this book believing it to be a work of fiction. It is not. However, since I am a history buff as well as a reader of thrillers, I found this story very interesting, enlightening, and gruesome. The "White City" of the 1893 Chicago fair tells it's own tale while a handsome beguiler stalks the women in a method so thoroughly intriguing it defies belief. Scott Brick, as always, adds his deft narrative touch.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Willits, CA, United States 05-17-08
    Chris Willits, CA, United States 05-17-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Great as always"

    If you like anything else by Eric Larson read this book. Good stuff and good recording too.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Chicago, IL, USA 04-20-08
    Laura Chicago, IL, USA 04-20-08 Member Since 2006
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    "Satisfying"

    The content was satisfying. An interesting play between two parallel story lines: one of the creation of the Chicago Columbia Exposition of 1893 , the other the evolution of a charismatic serial killer. The flow between the two was well constructed and worked well. The descriptions of both events were both very factual and equal in tenor. I would look elsewhere for a thrilling murder mystery. Some will no doubt will find that the depth to which either story could have been explored was sacrificed to cover the other and vice versa.

    Narration was good. There were a few mispronunciations of locations that would likely only be recognized by Chicago natives. There were a couple times where it seemed the digital stream skipped.

    I would recommend it more for persons with interest in Chicago history rather than those looking for a suspense novel.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M Shep 03-21-08
    M Shep 03-21-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Highly Compelling"

    Magnificent book, beautifully read. Great story, chock full of fascinating characters. Sheds light on the zeitgeist of turn-of-the-century America in ways I hadn't expected. One of my top three favorite Audible listens.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Myron 02-02-08
    Myron 02-02-08
    ratings
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    "review2"

    Enthralling story; good sound and audibility. Portays the works of architect geniuses and a psychopath. Due to descriptive violence, would not recommend for children.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L 01-21-08
    L 01-21-08
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    "chicago history becomes a murder mystery"

    the chicago world's fair left american with some interesting iconic products, architecture, and really put chicago on the map. intertwining this with a serial murderer's rampage makes for an interesting historical tale. my hat is off to the author for painstakingly researching the subjects. well worth reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Neumar LI, NY 11-11-07
    L. Neumar LI, NY 11-11-07 Member Since 2009

    craft lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting"

    Larson takes his readers through the harrowing, planning, building and creation of the 1893 Chicage World's Fair. The Fairgrounds, dubbed The White City because of its so-called beauty, was believed to be impossible to construct due to adverse conditions and time constraints. However, political influence brought to bear decided location, and Fair content. Larson's meticulous research through diaries, police reports and notes, has allowed this otherwise dry litany to come alive. He has successfully drawn a parallel between good and evil intertwined with the development of the Fair. Henry Holmes, (evil) built a hotel in close proximity to the Fair and along with rooms and offices, designed a dissection table, gas chamber and crematorium in which many unsuspecting victims, many of them women, met their fate. Although I am not necessarily a fan of this type of literature, Larson has successfully created a work that held my attention and supplied me with some surprising information (famous names such as Disney connected with the Fair) that I would otherwise not have had knowledge of.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leonard silberman 10-29-07 Member Since 2015
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    "Well-researched and interesting"

    I like books where I learn something true and new. This book certainly provided that opportunity -- from the first Ferris Wheel to Columbus Day to forensics in the late 1800's to Frank Lloyd Wright's beginnings to the perspective of a landscape architect... I loved the details. I could see, smell, and hear the city. I felt the drama of the World's Fair and the horror of the murders. The book was very detailed -- but not excessively so and it was rarely redundant.

    On the other hand, this was a difficult book in an auditory format. There were many characters and it would be helpful sometimes to be able to look back to remember who people were.

    I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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