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)
Two unique stories with little relevance to each other. Either would have been good in their own right but together, not so much .
I wanted to like this. I tried. Great topic, interesting situation. Maybe it was better as a book. For me it felt like reading a map or 14 hours of "A +B-W= h and then Q\W".
Hours and hours.
The story is irresistable, the writing is fine
Any time Scott Brick stopped using his habitually snarky intonation -- which was rare
In a Nelson DeMille or Lee Child book sure. In non-fiction, only because I have no choice
The Devil who makes publishers continue to use Scott Brick for everything regardless of suitability
Have I made myself clear: Scott Brick has exactly one gear: snark overdrive. Fine when called for by the content, ridiculous for 90% of what he is currently used for.
A reader who varied his voice or showed some excitement. Some dialogue in the book.
A text book.
Monotone with no material to help him out.
I think the history about Chicago was great, which was the main virtue of the book.
It always puzzles me how people can stand to listen to Scott Brick. I suspect they are people who have not read much. Scott Brick is unable to approximate ordinary human speech. He is CONstantly overEMphasizing ALMOST Every SYLlable. Get what I mean? It's like listening to most American actors do Shakespeare: most of the words are unfamiliar to them, and it's Shakespeare, right, so they think they're supposed to sound important. As a result, they sound like schoolboys proclaiming their first essay at school. Compare Denzel Washington with Kenneth Branagh.
In short, read like people talk. It's simply said, but, as Scott Brick proves, hard to do. I'm not saying I'd do any better. But at least I know good narration when I hear it. Examples: Christopher Hitchens; Grover Gardner: Master of the Senate; Jeremy Irons: Lolita; Juliet Stephenson: anything she reads; Bronson Pinchot: Matterhorn; John Castle: Vanity Fair; Nigel Graham: Lord Jim. Even Fredrick Davidson, alias David Case, even though his accent is hard to take sometimes, knows when to stress a syllable and when not to. He flows, wheres Scott Brick is constantly stubbing his toe against the English language. Also terrible, for the same reason: John Lee. Stop ruining books by giving them to these people. Just pay Juliet Stephenson whatever she wants to read everything.
Of the 30+ books I've listened to since 2009, The Devil in the White City is one of the best experiences. Erik Larson's writing is sublime. He conjures the Chicago of the late nineteenth century so clearly that he might be documenting events that occurred yesterday. The stories about the design, organization, and construction of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair as well as the personalities involved are all utterly fascinating. The macabre portions that deal with serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes are so bizarre as to almost be unbelievable. While listening to this book, I found myself continually thinking, "Truth truly is stranger than fiction."
Prior to my listen I was apprehensive about the narrator, Scott Brick, who had also done Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life. I felt that Brick's reading of that book was slightly stilted, but his performance of Devil in the White City is pitch perfect.
The part about the fair was not very interesting. The part about HH Homles was much better. Overall not bad. If you enjoy non- fiction history, then you like the book. It just did not do it for me.
If you are just interested in detailed history of the people who developed the Chicago Worlds Fair, then you may like this audiobook. I thought that the characaters were quite boring. Even the serial killer's story was quite ho hum to me.
I'm late catching this book, but am I ever glad that I finally acted on my friends' recommendations. If you're interested in 20th century American history -- or simply in histories and the ways their elements interact -- I can't see you going wrong with this one.
Who knew a history of the early 20th century in Illinois could bring together Mark Twain, cracker jack, Susan B. Anthony, Gentelman Jim Corbett, Woodrow Wilson, Shredded Wheat, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Clarence Darrow, Walt Disney, Theodore Dreiser, Leopold & Loeb, the electric chair, the ferris wheel, and even the Keeley Gold Cure.
It's a well read tale, a fascinating examination of "the fair that changed America," chock full of surprising information.
Excellent work of history. So many fascinating details and great character studies. Very worth the time invested.
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