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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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    7,752
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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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Personally I didn't like it

I expected more from
The book. However if your are interested in the architecture then I would go for it but if your not the no.

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The title is misleading.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I'm not sure how this book has earned so much praise. First, it is just barely about H.H. Holmes. It is almost as if the author wanted to write an architectural history book and put the serial killer on the back cover so people would actually buy it. The narrative about the fair is tedious and frustratingly slow. Personally, I found the character development of the architects uninteresting. The H.H. Holmes story didn't really fit with the narrative the author was telling regarding the fair. Again, it was as if he included just enough to get his book to sell. I thought Scott Brick did great as the narrator, although the poor guy cannot pronounce French words to save his life. His voice was a perfect fit for the Holmes sections. Overall: if you enjoy architectural history, you may find this book interesting. DO NOT Buy this is you are looking for a study of H.H.Holmes because you will barely get a glimpse and leave wanting.

Was The Devil in the White City worth the listening time?

I would have felt more satisfied had the publisher's summary been more accurate.

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Captivating tale brilliantly told

Inspired story interweaving factual accounts of the Colombian Exposition of 1893 as a pivotal event in American cultural history against a pivotal occurrence in criminal history made possible, in part, by the fair. Author Erik Larson is a spellbinding story teller and impeccable researcher. The story is made richer in its audio version by eye widening detail and suspense imparted deftly by Scott Brick, a gifted reader. I will be looking for more stories by Erik Larson and more readings by Scott Brick.

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  • Brandon
  • Natchitoches, LA, United States
  • 02-22-17

Excellent, but not exactly what I was expecting

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

absolutely, it is a great listen, Scott Brick is terrific, the writing is superb, and the story at its heart is very compelling, both stories

What did you like best about this story?

I read this book for the story of H H Holmes but in the end found myself more enthralled at the story of the Chicago World's Fair.

Which scene was your favorite?

The description of what the patrons to the park saw and how they reacted to it. Erik Larson does an amazing job of painting a picture of what it must have looked like and Scott Brick's reading lends an extra level of gravity

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

The construction of the first Ferris Wheel was interesting to hear, I think I had known that it was first introduced at the World's Fair but didn't know that it was the centerpiece that was supposed to be the counterpoint to Paris Eiffel Tower for their World's Fair. Also, I don't think I had any idea of how massive this ferris wheel was

Any additional comments?

I was surprised because I thought this was going to be a book about H.H. Holmes and the World's Fair would serve as the backdrop for his evil. The beautiful white city would merely be the setting and yin to the yang of Holmes. But really the story is about the World's Fair, Holmes is the just the malignant tumor running through this era.

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  • Kendra
  • Lake Elmo, MN United States
  • 02-22-17

Insight into True Evil and True Beauty

The juxtaposition of the brutality and cruelty of Holmes' murders with the beauty and hope of Chicago's World Fair is masterful. If you like any genre of non-fiction, you'll find something in this book that will interest you. Despite familiarity with the overall chain of events, this book still felt suspenseful to me. However, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who's squeamish or sensitive to violence. For everyone else though, it's a great listen/read.

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Truth Can DEFINITELY Be Better Than Fiction!

What made the experience of listening to The Devil in the White City the most enjoyable?

This was an AMAZING story:
True history, the world's first (convicted anyway) psychopathic murderer, well, written story, and wonderfully read.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

ABSOLUTELY!!
Even though I knew how the story ends (Mudgett/Holmes is caught,convicted and killed) the fair ends.
Mr. Larson wrote and Mr. Brick read this book brilliantly.

What about Scott Brick’s performance did you like?

Scott Brick seemed to enjoy the book as much as reading it.
If you don't like what you're reading, it comes across.

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

Not even gonna attempt to!

Any additional comments?

I had started reading The Devil in the White City a few months ago. Whenever I had any (precious) time to myself, I'd pick up where I left off. This book was incredibly intriguing.
Due to work and commitments, I stopped reading. Next think I new, I completely misplaced the book.
When I found it on Audible, I totally yelled out "YES!!"
This is an amazing story. Mr. Larson's ability to fill in the blanks (because of course we'll never really know what Holmes/Mudget was thinking) was amazing.
This is definitely one of those wonderful "finds" that I have already begun recommending to others.
Thank you Mr.Larson for writing a fabulously, riveting story.
And thank you, Mr. Brick, for bringing it to life.

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page Turner

I'm not one for nonfiction books, but this kept my full attention. I have to day I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

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Who knew?

Would you listen to The Devil in the White City again? Why?

I was not really up for reading a creepy serial killer book at all, that is until my sister read it. It was amazing, scary and informative all at the same time.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The story of the serial killer carried the book for me - who knew. The historical fiction was interesting, but not for an entire book.

Which scene was your favorite?

The detail of the White City

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

Creepy historical fiction

Any additional comments?

I learned a lot about an era in time that is generally ignored in history class.

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Well narrated, but structure is dry

Fully enjoyed the detailed non-fiction telling of events. However, the narrative style is there but a little lacking, albeit this is done to retain the factual accuracy of the story. Nonetheless, it has an effect on the reader. Narration was overall very good.

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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.