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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America | [Erik Larson]

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Two men embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America's rush toward the 20th century: Daniel Hudson Burnham, the brilliant director of works for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair; and Henry H. Holmes, who used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths.
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Publisher's Summary

Two men embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America's rush toward the 20th century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham the brilliant director of works for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the builder of many of the country's most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his "World's Fair Hotel" just west of the fairgrounds - a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws listeners into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others.

Erik Larson's gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.

©2003 Erik Larson; (P)2003 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"This is everything popular history should be, meticulously recreating a rich America on the cusp of modernity, in which the sale of 'articulated' corpses was a semi-respectable trade and serial killers could go well-nigh unnoticed." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (350 )
5 star
 (132)
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 (8)
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4.2 (120 )
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Story
4.2 (118 )
5 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Marian Paulina Clymer, PA United States 08-09-05
    Marian Paulina Clymer, PA United States 08-09-05 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    6
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    "I wonder..."

    if I missed something. In reading the reviews I thought this would be a great read but I have to admit I wasn't that blown away. I guess I thought the World's Fair and suspense aspect would be given equal time but found the details on creating the "white city" too much and the suspense too little. A fair read is all I can give it but this is not one that I would recommend to others or read again.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry Sunnyvale, CA, USA 12-08-04
    Larry Sunnyvale, CA, USA 12-08-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    12
    1
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    0
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    "Excellent story"

    I'd never heard this story, and I loved it. I didn't want to stop listening. Fascinating.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Luvlelwyr 08-12-03
    Luvlelwyr 08-12-03 Member Since 2015

    luvlelwyr

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    62
    2
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    0
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    "Great Story, So-So Storyteller"

    This book is interesting for its retelling of a great moment in American and Chicago's history as well as a dark moment in its history. Larson is not the best writer. His analogies seem forced and his prose sounds choppy. Still, this book is worth listening to for the story it tells. I was sucked in right from the beginning. I didn't want to stop listening until I got to the end. I only wish I had the hardcover so that it could have been unabridged and so that I could look at any included pictures to provide a visual for my imagination. I recommend it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bruce Northampton, MA, USA 12-10-05
    Bruce Northampton, MA, USA 12-10-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    1
    1
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    Overall
    "Gruesome"

    I had hoped to learn more about the "White City" as I am sure there were 100's of interesting vignettes. Instead, I was subjected to the misdeeds of one of the most amoral criminal minds in American history.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    judi swift 02-22-15
    judi swift 02-22-15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Great story."

    Wonderful blend of history and fiction. A great and interesting story. Recommend it highly very entertaining. Good ending to a great mystery

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin Nashville, TN, United States 10-08-12
    Benjamin Nashville, TN, United States 10-08-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    13
    8
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    Performance
    Story
    "Exposition Excels while Murder Doesn't"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The discussion of the Columbia Exposition was outstanding. The murders were less so. I understand there are others that would like it as well.


    Would you recommend The Devil in the White City to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes and No. I think it captures the period well and let's you understand how the exposition made Chicago great. The murders are tedious.


    Did Tony Goldwyn do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    Yes


    Do you think The Devil in the White City needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No. He author did a great job taking complete license with history.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    james pleasant View, UT, United States 10-02-12
    james pleasant View, UT, United States 10-02-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Two books in one."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Loved the history of the Chicago Fair. I did not care for the information about missing people.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Bryn Mawr, PA, United States 10-09-11
    Catherine Bryn Mawr, PA, United States 10-09-11 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    32
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    5
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    Story
    "glad it was abridged"

    I am glad I bought the abridged version of this much-heralded book, because I found it tedious and eventually boring. The abridged version is a bit disjointed, but that was a small price to pay until the end, when the story became really interesting. At that point, the missing links in the text became annoying, and the story hard to follow, as the detectives who finally caught Holmes put together the clues that finally sealed his fate. You do get a sense of that astonishing era, when people could disappear without a trace with no one suspecting foul play and people naively trusted strangers. The story is competently read by Tony Goldwyn.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bryant 02-05-05
    Bryant 02-05-05
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    25
    1
    Overall
    "To much about the fair"

    To much about the fair a history book and very little about the mystery

    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
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