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)
Someone who's interested in extensive, detailed history of Chicago and the World's Fair. The detail is excruciatingly tedious and redundant. If you are interested in H. H. Holmes, you will be sorely disappointed by this book. It's 90% slow, monotonous, repetitive description of the building of the fair, all of its difficulties and irrelevant information on the background and personal lives of the many creators of the fair. Even the parts about Holmes are disappointing.
His pompous, arrogant tone made the book even more unbearable.
As others have said, this book is really only for history buffs. I was interested in H. H. Holmes and I think the description of the book is misleading--the bits about Holmes are few and far between, and almost as boring as the fair narrative. I began fast-forwarding this book after waiting longer than I should have for it to get interesting. It never did. I became agitated as it droned on--where was the serial killer?? As others have said, I could read the Wiki on Holmes and learn more than I did throughout the torturous hours of listening to this book. I wish I'd stopped after the first hour. It was the most boring book I've ever read or heard. It was slow and repetitive, the narrator's pretentious tone adding to the monotony. Waste of time and money. If I had the book in print, I would burn it.
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.
Audio Addict! Usually listening to History these days. Love Will Durant most of all authors!
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.
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.
Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.
I wanted to like this. The period... characters.... mystery... and CHICAGO as it becomes a butterfly. But Scott Brick's portentousness, coupled with ho-hum writing made it slower than a sloth in syrup. It reminded me of why reading high school history was work.
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.
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