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The Devil in the White City | [Erik Larson]

The Devil in the White City

In a thrilling narrative showcasing his gifts as storyteller and researcher, Erik Larson recounts the spellbinding tale of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Also available abridged.
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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‚Äôs 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

4.1 (4872 )
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  •  
    Mary Bardwell, KY, USA 10-29-04
    Mary Bardwell, KY, USA 10-29-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Four Stars"

    Seldom does an Audible choice provide such a complete package: great writing, outstanding reader, and a story based on real events that reads like fiction. Larson brings characters from the Gilded Age to life. They'd all - even Holmes! - be very pleased with Larson's "resurrection." Four stars.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christina Lexington, SC, USA 09-27-04
    Christina Lexington, SC, USA 09-27-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantastic Read"

    The narrator is expressive - the story is compelling - and the writing grips you and keeps you there. I am LOVING this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth belfast, ME, USA 08-31-04
    Kenneth belfast, ME, USA 08-31-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "yes, YES!"

    About the best audible book I've ever read. Really looked forward to getting back on the road to hear more. Don't be thrown by what the book's about....It's as good as they come.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne Hoag State College, PA 08-27-04
    Anne Hoag State College, PA 08-27-04 Member Since 2002

    Anne in Happy Valley

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Left me with curiosity..."

    I enjoyed the book immensely but am still wondering why Larson dwelled so often on arcana (i.e., reciting the full menus of so many architect dinners) while shortchanging the reader on descriptions of the fair exhibits (I mean besides the 'danse de vente' -- didn't he seem a little fixated on that?). For example, that manufacturers' building -- after he told us about it falling down 5 or 6 times, you'd think he'd reward us by telling us what they actually managed to exhibit in there. Or did I miss that -- sometimes my Otis garbles or skips a passage.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    krista New Orleans, LA, United States 08-24-04
    krista New Orleans, LA, United States 08-24-04 Member Since 2006
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    "Run, don't walk, baby."

    Putting my love which knows no bounds for the City of my childhood aside, I cannot begin to recommend this read enough. I know now that I love the City of Chicago for reasons that cannot be put into words, though this book comes very close to presenting that feeling all Chicago-ans feel, even after they leave, which inexplicably demands that they say, "I'm from Chicago," and smiling as though that were simply enough, no further explanation needed. The details are extrordinary, and the additional information about the World's Fair buildings still standing, or dedicated to those who determined to see it through were facinating, leaving no stone unturned, nor any question unanswered. Though the 'Devil" in question was clearly blood-thirsty, it became difficult to determine who, within this historical group of players, was really devilish, the serial killer gone unchecked, or those that determined that the World's Fair would come off despite the obsticles, personal losses, and the peripheral destruction. Was it all worth it, the lives lost or shattered, ruined beyond satisfaction, is the question that still remains in the end for this reader. That any future visit to Chicago will now forever be altered, skewed with details and information, is a certainty, delightfully educational even, though my love still remains firmly ensconced in my DNA. I cannot recommend this book enough. You must run, run, run, right this second, and obtain it.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Groton, CT, USA 08-02-04
    Mike Groton, CT, USA 08-02-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the Best"

    This was one of the best audio books I've ever listened to. The narration was superb and the story was riveting. An indication of how good this book was is that it left me wanting to learn more about the time and events depicted. Also, this is not the generally the type of book my wife would listen to but she enjoyed it so much that she recommended the book to her Book Club and they will be reading it this fall.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eddie Frierson 07-01-04

    Eddie is a professional actor, writer and voice-over artist perhaps best known for his universally acclaimed solo play, MATTY: AN EVENING WITH CHRISTY MATHEWSON.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "FASCINATING!"

    As with most of the online reviews, I concur that this is a tale of two tales ... either one of which stands on its own --- and COULD be published separately. The story of murder surrounded by the world's fair ... utterly fascinating. I want to find out more about HH Holmes AND the fair ... and after reading this complete account on both ... that is saying something. Highly recommended! And the narration is just right. Scott Brick sounds very much like Edward Hermann and has the same enjoyable tones and inflections in his reading.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith Falls Church, VA, USA 06-21-04
    Judith Falls Church, VA, USA 06-21-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating book"

    Completely entertaining and educational. The dual plots - Construction of the Chicago World's fair and the building of the mass murderers' lair - kept the action moving. I thought the handling of the mass murderer's exploits was very well done. The author gave a very clear picture of the "devil" and his horrors without obsessing on the blood and gore. It was just the right touch for this reader.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Graham Round Rock, TX, USA 06-07-04
    Graham Round Rock, TX, USA 06-07-04
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    "G Perks"

    The first half of this book was mildly interesting, but since I had never heard of the White City before, held little interest for me. The passages about Holmes, the psychopath of the tale, were morbidly fascinating, and kept me going through the stretches of getting the City gardens just so. By the second half, I was getting more interested in the City. It was actually sounding pretty good, and had some excitement with the setbacks encountered along the way. By the time the closing of the Exposition was chronicled, I wished I could somehow visit it and see the City and all its wonders for myself. The Holmes investigation at the end was very creepy. It was night and dark in my house, and I had to take a break until daylight! Very good and all the better for being non-fiction. The abridged version may have been better for me if it keeps all the Holmes sections, yet still captures the wonder of the Exposition.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dphilmlee 05-28-04
    dphilmlee 05-28-04 Member Since 2001
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    "Great Content and Great Narration"

    Narrator Scott Brick does an excellent job bringing to life Erik Larson's description of the heights of the White City and the depths explored by killer HH Holmes. The book really shows the excellent background work done by the author. A great example of history come alive. The depiction of the fair is so enticing, that after finishing the book, I was left longing for a time machine to allow me to go back and visit the fair. I'll just have to go back and reread Jack Finney's Time and Again.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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