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)
I wanted something about a serial killer not about the construction of the Worlds Fair in Chicago
I am not generally a fan of historical novels. The fact that this is non-fiction is also a mark against it. However, Larson pulls you into the world of late-1800s Chicago. He introduces you to people and you feel as if you've truly met them.
The complex narration that follows multiple individuals is easily followed. Holmes' inner-monologue is expertly written and you feel his depravity through the words.
Great book that interweaves the story of a turn-of-the-century worlds fair in Chicago with the story of America's first serial killer. There are lots of details about the politics and structural challenges of building the World's Fair. The chill of the story of the killer emerges more from descriptions of the settings and evidence found than from graphic details of the killings. Finally, near the end of the book the author makes some comments about why he relies on sources other than the Internet for his research.
I've meant to pick this book up many times over the years, but the length of it was quite the barrier.
Having finally gotten the audiobook, I was invested from start to finish. Having just been to Chicago, one of my favorite cities, a couple of years ago when the Institute of Arts happened to have an excellent gathering of remnants from the 1893 Wolds Fair, thus peaking my interest in this book even further, it was amazing doing some internet research on the fair and finding photos of exhibitions. Particularly the still very well preserved Giant Octopus and Wooly Mammoth, rare gemstones and stunning fossils from out west and fantastic armor, weapons and mummified infants to Pharaohs and all classes in between. Exhibits of hundreds of insects, with original labels were creepy while interesting at the same time.
While in Chicago, I'd heard of the book, but missed the "Devil" part. Upon returning, I was tempted as ever to get the book but was afraid it would've sat unfinished. I finally signed up for Audible and made it my first purchase. Having been to Chicago a few times made listening much more enjoyable, but it's not a necessary prerequisite.
About ¾ of the way through , I began to wonder just how much was fact and how much fiction. From what I found, this could have easily been filed under Non-Fiction it was so truthful in its telling.
This book has great detail! I love the quotes obtained from letters and old records. It was a fascinating tale of the constant struggle for artistic excellence paired with the depth of human depravity. The story of Holmes is more bizarre and complex than I ever imagined.
Interesting and informative story that is really two stories in one. I doubt nothing I write hasn't already been captured in the numerous other reviews here, but unlike some of the mediocre or negative reviews, I found this book fun, captivating, creepy, and thoroughly enjoyable.
As a native Chicagoan, who grew up partially in/around Hyde Park/Jackson Park, this was so descriptive, and I could see the places Erik Larson described, especially the Wooded Isle, now known as the Japanese Garden, behind the Museum Of Science And Industry, where I spent many days, happily cutting school, now usually home, to several homeless men,, and the lagoons, and harbor. In recent years, several bridge decorations have been unearthed, and sparked my fascination, with the Exposition, and after a rousing Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast, about HH HOLMES,, which mentions this book prominently, I had to finally read it! I was not disappointed, and if youre a fan of narrative history, you wont be either! As a fan of the Chicago Boulevard Parks System, museums, and other works of Burnham, Sullivan, Adler, and Olmstead, I loved this book!
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