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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 (13146 )
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  •  
    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Scarborough, ON, Canada 09-30-05
    Paul Scarborough, ON, Canada 09-30-05
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    "LONG- but interesting"

    Enjoyed this audio book... the history is amazing. Switching back and forth from the details of the construction of the Chicago World's Fair and a serial killer embedded within the mosaic of every-day life maintained my interest enough that I finished the book in several days. The details of inventions introduced at the times and the details of prominent (and not so well known) architects and inventors kept me busy figuring out who was who and what was what... but the return to the serial killer kept me grounded. The rich history embedded in the book was an education. My first audible book. GREAT... gonna get more!

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lynn louisville, Cayman Islands 03-19-15
    lynn louisville, Cayman Islands 03-19-15 Member Since 2009
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    "A couple notches lower than "meh""

    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.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joel Mill Valley, CA, United States 09-06-12
    Joel Mill Valley, CA, United States 09-06-12

    Me, myself, and I.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An Astounding Listen"

    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.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel 08-12-17
    Samuel 08-12-17
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    "A lot of stuff should have been left out"

    One part of the story was about bourgeoisie project management. Indeed, the part about the men behind the Chicago world fair read like an article from the New Yorker that just wouldn't end.
    The other (and rather unrelated) part of the book was about H.H. Holmes, one of America's worst killers. Fascinating stuff.
    Weirdly enough the story lost steam once the chase for the killer got going. Had I been the editor, it would have been very different. 'Dead Wake' by Erik Larson was a lot better.
    Scott Brick did an excellent job reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ashly 01-31-17
    Ashly 01-31-17 Member Since 2016
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    "It's not the gripping, but it's still good"
    If you could sum up The Devil in the White City in three words, what would they be?

    I initially wanted to read this book because I have a fascination with HH Holmes and the year that the World's Fair descended upon Chicago. The book can get a bit bogged down in unnecessary details, while tending to give a lackluster focus on the actual man himself. I was hoping for more of a narrative on the extremely strange and rare set of circumstances that birthed America's first recorded serial killer, but instead, I got extremely detailed information of building specs for the hotel and an unusually large amount of data on the area at the time. It got a bit boring.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    I was hoping for more of a narrative on the extremely strange and rare set of circumstances that birthed America's first recorded serial killer


    If you could give The Devil in the White City a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Building America's first serial killer


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    The Amester 11-04-16
    The Amester 11-04-16

    The Amester

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    "Turning History into Tedium"

    I was massively disappointed in this book. The narrator, Scott Brick, is great as always. But, the writing and storytelling were sub-par. I was very interested in the topic and had looked forward to learning about something brand new.
    As soon as the narrative began, I realized that the author was caught between telling a story and retelling history. He failed at both. Attempts to create suspense fell flat because he was recounting known historical facts. Attempts to create character-depth fell flat because he could only have them speak in the small snippets of dialogue culled from historical documents. Not one person seemed real to me and yet they were all historical figures! Because the author stuck by historical facts and evidence only, he hobbled his own freedom to create vibrant people which I could care about. Larson ends up describing people, describing their words and describing their actions. It didn't seem that the characters were actual people, speaking and acting.
    I was fascinated by the fair but the author dragged me into minutiae that felt irrelevant to the story. And, I'm generally a great lover of minutiae.
    The murderous Holmes was approached and described as though the author himself were a product of the end of the nineteenth century - constrained by prim social mores and avoiding saying anything crude, explicit or graphic about the murderer. It takes a true lack of writing talent to turn a vile killer into a tedious character.
    I suspect that most other listeners will disagree with my point of view. But, two very exciting subjects were ground into a fine dust of tedium by Erik Larson.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine J. Pondozzi Laurel, Maryland 10-09-16
    Catherine J. Pondozzi Laurel, Maryland 10-09-16 Member Since 2013

    I am someone who enjoys audible books very much now that they exist. As a young student (real young) I can remember a teacher telling me how books can transport people to different places & open up a whole new world. This is how listening to audible books make me feel. Now if I can just stop falling asleep while listening to them at night I would be fine. Ha ha

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enjoyed very much!"

    Although long, i really enjoyed this book & learned a lot about architecture & history. it didn't hurt to have my favorite narrator reading the book (Scott Brick) It has inspired me to look up the Chicago worlds fair to see what more i could glean.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mark o reilly 04-08-16 Member Since 2017
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    "Beautifully paints an era in time"

    Just a warning, this is predominantly about the Chicago Worlds Fair and is fascinating in it's description of the historical context, people and events that surrounded it. People going in expecting a lot of macabre detail on HH Holmes may be put off by the amount of time spent discussing the logistics of architecture.

    That shouldn't be seen as a negative though, it is a very well written book for a largely historical account and contains some very beautiful prose and structure, it feels as lovingly crafted as the worlds fair itself.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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