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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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    7,598
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    4,592
  • 3 Stars
    1,816
  • 2 Stars
    481
  • 1 Stars
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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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  • 3 Stars
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Two for One Novel

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I highly recommend this book especially to those that love true life murder mysteries and/or Chicago.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Devil in the White City?

Erik Larson does an amazing job intertwining the stories of HH Holmes’ murders, the history of Chicago, and the creation of the world’s fair. When recalling the book, I remember the narrator setting the scene of the World’s Fair in Chicago in all its full glory and none other than HH Holmes visiting the Fair. The scene is so important to the book!

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

A fun fact, Franklin Lloyd Wright was fired from working on the planning of the World’s Fair for being too creative! Imagine, FLW working and building homes while HH Holmes was creating a murder mansion. Another memorable tidbit was the first Ferris Wheel was made for the Fair.

  • Overall
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The Devil in the White City

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The story was a little hard to follow. There were flashbacks and character changes that were not clear.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The story was a little hard to follow. There were flashbacks and character changes that were not clear.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Devil in the White City?

I wouldn't have cut anything. I would have added clear scene breaks.

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Didn't work for me.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

I was happy it ended. I liked Erik Larson's other works but this attempt to mesh these events was like mixing oil and water. I could of enjoyed each story separately, thanks to Brick, but this combination was not to my liking.

Have you listened to any of Scott Brick’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Brick's performance was good and I enjoyed his work..

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Historically Interesting account

I had little knowledge of the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago. The achievements and inventions resulting from this exposition are amazing.
Just keep in mind that this is more documentary than story. All based on facts and research. No plot twists and turns, just an accurate account of events.

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Awesome Book

This book has two intertwining stories that are both fascinating. I live in Chicago so am perhaps biased but there is a lot of interesting history in there along with a True Crime thriller. Enjoy!

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Too much background wordy.

This book tried to write about two stories, and I feel missed the boat on both. If you wanted to know the mechanics of the World Fair then you might enjoy. The serial killer story was so vague it shouldn't have even been included other than a side note. Too many characters to easily follow.

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Can't recommend this one. Too much talk of architecture, not enough HH Holmes.

Can't recommend this one. Too much talk of architecture, not enough HH Holmes.

I got this book for the HH Holmes story and knew about the world fair being a parallel story. I found the world fair history interesting but it was way too involved, way way too involved. Just boring and the two stories were so different and not intertwined that I felt like I was listening to two different books.
Maybe that was the point but I didn't care for it.

Obviously the world fair was documented extensively but there was a lot of reaching on the HH Holmes story as it wasn't documented as much.

Honestly I found The Last Podcast on the left to be much more informative.

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Holmes

If you're reading just for the Holmes story, this isn't the book for you. The title is misleading in that it intimates that the book is mainly about Holmes (the titular devil) in the white city of Chicago. This is not the case. I would say that about a sixth of this book is about Holmes and his victims while the rest is about the architects and other social luminaries that helped to create the worlds fair in Chicago. This wasn't what I was looking for, so it wasn't right for me, but if you're a history buff that likes architecture or landscape design, then it's perfect for you.

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  • Snow Brenner
  • High Point, North Carolina United States
  • 01-24-17

Fascinating!!!!

If you could sum up The Devil in the White City in three words, what would they be?

Story of the Chicago World's Fair & so much more!!! Great depth of characters!

What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

Wonderful but... not sure if it was the connection in my car or the recording but it repeated a few sentences 4-5 times.

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Good read well put together information

Lots of great stories put together in a way that made it compelling... Although the story ... as can be expected ... was a little gruesome in places.