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