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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.

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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    7,599
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Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Fantastic

The worst crime is to make history seem boring. Mr. Larsen is not guilty of this: quite the opposite, you feel as though you are there. With Burnham in the Rookery, with Harrison at the fair itself, and Holmes in every dark corridor of his castle. A fantastic read.

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Very good but horrors unspecified lose punch...

Very well researched and very good descriptions to put us there but lack of info on H H Holmes story led to some fizzle on that front.

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Amazing book

Absolutely enthralling book with wonderful narration. I Highly recommend this for any lover of books.

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Documentary drama

Of all Eric Larsson's s books this is the one I like the most, if you are interested in 19th century history and architecture and/or serial killers you'll love this one. It's not a very dramatic story, but it's utterly true and well researched and gives a brilliant account of the time and place; Chicago in the 1890s.

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Kind of like watching a train wreck...

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The story "reads" something like a textbook...but it was full of interesting information and also eerie details of evil. I would get impatient with it, but kept listening because I needed to hear what would happen. Learned much and was creeped out by much-- overall a good one!

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Amazing Method of Jumping Stories

The amazing thing in this isn't the vivid descriptions or the excellent writing. The amazing thing is the flawless changes between 3 overlapping stories of men from the time.

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Truly a Fantastic tale of History

Unbelievable how important the The White City of the World's fair changed the US and how it also put so many people out of work after.

As For H Holmes, hard to believe anyone can be that diabolical!

Wonderfully told and very educational!!!

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wish I could see the picture

Fascinating. I had no idea that the Chicago World Fair had such an impact to press the day life.

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Horrible story

Possibly the worst book I've ever read. Very dry story. No suspense or build up to it

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Fascinating, but a little too detailed

Any additional comments?

It was very interesting and educational, and kept my interest throughout. I learned so much about the Columbian exposition, architecture, Chicago history, and this H.H. Holmes character. It got a little bogged down in details with names, dates, architectural styles that made it a bit like a reference book. I liked the back and forth of the building of the White City with the destruction of the serial killer. I'm glad there was info at the end of how things turned out. I would recommend.