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 enjoyed this listen so much I lost sleep to continue listening. Scott Brick is my favorite narrator and he doesn't disappoint here. Set in Chicago in the late 1800's the book tells two stories. The fascinating story of Chicago's rush to build the White City and hold the World Fair of 1893 (celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America and visited by everyone who was anyone); as well as the murderous actions of Herman Mudgett (a.k.a. HH Holmes) a well respected doctor who preyed on young trusting women, and anyone else who got in his way.
The author writes in such a way that you can truly imagine the excitement and boom happening in that place and time. Other added details such as the detectives' intense search for evidence, appearances by famous people, and a tale from the Titanic make this story a rich and enjoyable read.
This was a huge undertaking for any author and I'm glad Larson ventured to uncover this enthralling story, however more details of both the murders and the building of the city would have been welcomed. Still a fascinating read that for the first time makes me look forward to the movie so I can see the incredible White City come to life.
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this audible book. The two story lines are both wonderful and either one on their own would have been enough to keep me entertained.
A wonderfully researched and thoughtfully written book that is brought to life by a voice made to be listened to.
Do yourself a favour and get this one.
Always a reader, now a listener as well!
In reading some of the lower rated reviews, I was hesitant to make this pick but now
I cannot think of a better way to tell the two intertwined stories presented here. They are the yin and yang of the event, and with the wonderful narration, and engrossing detail, the story flew along.....well, as fast as you can listen to those 14+ hours. Unlike other long downloads, this one kept me in the story, and I did not have to 'back-up' to remember the place....
The amazing scope of this Fair is awesome, and for the time history-making on so many fronts, from the Labor movement, to engineering, and sanitation, we can still see this Fair's footprint on our daily lives! Concurrently,
the gruesome serial-killer who took advantage of the circumstances is a potent reminder that there is always evil lurking just under the beautiful surface, and we cannot be too vigilant.
The narration was perfect, and this story will please the history buff, mystery or thriller reader in you.
This book was fascinating! As a life long resident of Chicago, I found this book to be a must read. It lead to a wealth of emotions from pride in the "Chicago spirit" which accomplished and continues to accomplish great things to the disgust at the lax manner in which human life was treated at that time. Contrary to what some reviewers wrote, I found the detail to paint a rich and deep picture of that time that reflected the spirit and mood of the Era, not only in Chicago, but the country as well. Highly recommended!
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.
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.
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.
Not only is this book a great read but it is incredibly informative. The parrallel story flows like water. I have recommeded it to several of my friends and they loved it.
I knew very little about the Chicago Exposition and nothing about H.H. Holmes before listening to this book. What a juxtaposition between the two stories - one of great deeds and triumph and the other of such horror and tragedy.
Me, myself, and I.
You might not be able to tell from my previous reviews, given that I have heaped praise on a number of books here, but I am pretty picky. If I don't like something, if I am struggling to get through it, I just stop. What is left are books that I find generally engaging, fascinating, and overall an enjoyable experience.
Topping just about everything I've listened to in the past 12 months or so that I've been a member is this nearly perfect story. Erik Larson's narrative non-fiction is among the best available in any form. This story of the interweaving of herculean city building and evil incarnate is nearly unbelievable. Neither story feels like it could have taken place in the reality we inhabit. But as we all too often know, real life can be quite jarring, unbelievable, and amazing.
So it is with the most fervent recommendation that I suggest you read/listen to this book. Do it because the writing is impeccable. Do it because Erik Larson has set a new standard for whatever genre this actually falls into. And do it because you will finish the book with a newfound appreciation for Chicago, its roots, and the work of men to build things, discover things, and, ultimately, be greater than human in a time that often tried to stop them from doing so.
Oh, and Scott Brick is fantastic here. I want to say more about his reading, but the quality of the overall work itself drawfs anything else in its wake. Just know that Scott Brick does a great job, and his work here is another reason that I seek out books that he narrates, just as I do with a few other top-tier readers.
I am not normally a non-fiction reader but the reviews for this book were pretty good so I thought that I would give it a shot. I am really glad that I did. It was a well written, entertaining and educational read. There were two stories going on - both very engaging. I feel a little bit smarter for reading it! Well worth the time!
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