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The Devil in the White City Audiobook

The Devil in the White City

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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

4.2 (9634 )
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4.3 (6870 )
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4.4 (6835 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Patrick Lexington, SC, USA 02-11-05
    Patrick Lexington, SC, USA 02-11-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Devil in the White City"

    I bought this book based on the glowing reviews but I have to say now almst 3 hours in I am really starting to wonder. It is a nice depiction of Chicago, and perhaps if I accept it as a history lesson and not the murder mystery I thought I was getting, it will be better.

    It just seems like there is a great story here but the author does not bring the characters alive to me. I want more dialog not the endless narration of a very repetitive nature.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katkillr Arlington, VA USA 12-31-04
    Katkillr Arlington, VA USA 12-31-04 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An excellent way to start"

    This was my first entry into the land of audiobooks and I picked a gem. The author makes what could have been a dry and difficult read into an interesting and exciting narrative. He moves through the complex of lives touched by the events surrounding the 1993 Columbian Exhibition seamlessly. It delves into such varied areas as architecture, engineering, landscaping, city management, politics, social structure and forensic and criminal investigation, showing how each connects to the story and holding the interest of the reader thoughout. The narration of the book is clear and easy to listen to. All in all an excellent audiobook!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob Tujunga, CA, USA 12-23-04
    Bob Tujunga, CA, USA 12-23-04
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    "Chilling"

    This book is creepy to read, but fascinating. It justaposes the wonders of the 1892 Columbian Exposition with a conscience-less serial murder, both of which are remarkable in many ways. Recommend if you have an interest in technology, architecture, and/or project planning, or crime (and have a strong stomach).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maria Knoxville, TN, USA 11-17-04
    Maria Knoxville, TN, USA 11-17-04
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    "Captivating!"

    I absolutely was enthralled in this book! It captivated my interest so much that I purchased a couple of more books on the Chicago World's Fair. An absolute must read for anyone who appreciates history!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Connie Palatine, IL, USA 11-16-04
    Connie Palatine, IL, USA 11-16-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Can't stop recommending it !!"

    Since I finished listening to this a few months ago I have brought up stories about it many, many times. It is the best book I've heard or read in a long time. And I read a lot.
    Recently I bought two hard copies at a bookstore to give away. The book is so fascinating. So many developments and inventions are still influencing our lives! I'd list them, but that would give away some of the stories.
    The story keeps you listening. And, the book is based on hard facts. The author lists his research and credits at the end.
    I don't often write reviews, but this book just had to be praised online, not just to everyone I see in person.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. Galanti Los Angeles, CA USA 11-02-04
    G. Galanti Los Angeles, CA USA 11-02-04 Member Since 2011
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    "A Great Read!"

    I normally don't read non-fiction. I listen to books on tape (or electronic format) while I drive, and I prefer mindless entertainment. I'm a fan of mysteries. I got this book because my husband (we commute together) really wanted to read it. I was surprised to find that I loved it! There was a great mystery/thriller "plot" alongside a fascinating historical account of the Chicago World's Fair. It made our most recent trip to Chicago much more meaningful to know so much of the history of the city.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pastor Keith 04-28-04 Member Since 2016
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    "Best book I listen to in 2003"

    This is by far the best book in a long time. I learned a lot of history about the World's Fair along with a very interesting murder/suspense. If you are addicted to some learning with you fiction this is it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donald Milford, CA, USA 02-07-04
    Donald Milford, CA, USA 02-07-04
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    "My childhood home and I never knew it."

    What a wonderful book. Both stories spellbinding and true. I lived within 8 or 10 blocks of all of this as a grade school student and never knew the story of the exposition. My favorite haunt, the Museum of science and Industry, was a part of it. The Midway plaza at the University of Chicago was the original "Midway". Don't miss it. It is a story of American History that helped shape today.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bup 01-21-04
    bup 01-21-04 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "great history"

    This is not the type of book that I usually listen to but I found it totally absorbing. The two stories were educational and entertaining at the same time. I would never have experienced this book if it had not been for Audible! Thanks

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 08-12-13
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 08-12-13 Member Since 2010

    audio addict! Mostly interested in history and some historical fiction. Will Durant is my all time favorite. Loving the Great Courses too.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Disappointing, repetitive, anticlimactic"

    I purchased this book because it was recommended as an Audible Essential. Also, I love historical books with unique perspective of the past and eclectic characters.
    "Professor and the Madman" is a great example.

    This is the story of the incredible Chicago World Fair and of the many murders of H. H. Holmes, who built a cheap hotel to host the many young women coming to see the spectacle.
    Seems interesting, right?

    I was incredibly let down! This story has so much potential! To be sure, there are fascinating moments in this book, incredible characters, and important moments of history. (Susan B. Anthony's fantastic interaction with Buffalo Bill Cody, the spoiled Infanta of Spain and her terrible outbursts, the catty fights and antics of "Women Managers Committee", the unveiling of Ferris Wheel and the first electric chair, etc.)
    Nickola Tesla, Samuel Clemens, Annie Oakley, young Walt Disney-- The list of interesting people and things that were part of the Chicago World Fair 1893 is endless.

    The author's attempt at mixing the dual story lines was poorly executed. The wealth of information on the World Fair was elaborate and complex; the issues of the main characters and the city of Chicago to pull off the event were immense. Yet the murder mystery of Holmes was speculative, vague, and without proper details to understand his motive or his actions. I could not keep up with the many marriages, name changes and murders Holmes is thought to have committed. The murder story was a jumbled and confusing mess mixed in every few chapters with the intricate story of the Fair. It didn't work for me.

    The author would have done better to write two separate books, instead of cramming these stories together. There was more than enough interesting detail for the book to focus on the World Fair alone. Holmes murder story was very rushed at the end. The result was anticlimactic, when the story of the murders could have been at its most intense.

    It seems evident that this was rushed to the print.

    As for the narration, I usually like Scott Brick. But in this performance, I was equally annoyed with the narration. I suppose his style lends to a story with a climax, like an intense mystery novel or the tragic adventure/exploration books I've heard him read. But in Devil in the White City, Brick's narration only added to the tease and the disappointing finale.

    16 of 24 people found this review helpful

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