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The Devil in the White City Audiobook

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

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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

4.1 (645 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 08-03-12
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 08-03-12 Member Since 2008

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Moderately interesting"

    I know some people have said they really loved this book. I could never figure out why he chose to focus on these two stories in one book without ever being able to combine them. The murder story is interesting enough in its own way, especially if you're unfamiliar with this particular chapter of American history. The story of the Chicago World's Fair is more interesting. I had never appreciated how much world's fairs transformed the cities where they occurred or how much competition there was to outdo the last one. All the same, both stories come across as though they were written for the newspapers. That is, it's a kind of a dry reporting style, not likely to either excite or outrage. Unless, of course, you're one of those other people who really loved this book.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adryan Eugene, OR 06-03-12
    Adryan Eugene, OR 06-03-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Lurid tale, average writing, solid reading"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The link between architecture and homicidal insanity is unconvincing. Both the story of the World's Fair and the story of America's first serial killer are fascinating, but they don't match-up together as well as Larson would have us believe. The story necessitate some fascinating moments, but those moments are often told poorly. Larson clearly wants to build tension, leave his readers longing, and deal with the most grotesque moments with restraint and respect. He ends up instead sounding like he simply didn't complete his research, although I have no doubt he provide every available fact. I suspect that a touch of creative license would have made the book far more coherent and compelling. Larson also would have been better off if he had not picked up quite so many loose threads. While many of the side stories are interesting, they're so brief, and occur so sparingly throughout the main two plots, that they feel like incomplete distractions. Which is a shame, really. I would have loved to learn more about the worker's strike.


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

    Absolutely. The book capture a fascinating moment in history quite vividly, and a few of the figures described even manage to wrangle a personality out of Larson.


    Could you see The Devil in the White City being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    This would make an exquisite visual text. There is so much imagery and essential architecture that I wish they'd make a mini-series out of it. Without a doubt, Cilian Murphy would make an excellent Holmes and wouldn't it be fun to have Stephen Rea play the detective who doggedly pursues him? As for the architects, I didn't get much of feel for any of them, nor did I for any of the female characters.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry Sunnyvale, CA, USA 12-08-04
    Larry Sunnyvale, CA, USA 12-08-04
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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 2016

    luvlelwyr

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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
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    Storm4lmg 02-06-17
    Storm4lmg 02-06-17 Member Since 2016
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    "great but poor audio quality"

    l really enjoyed the book, it was well written and intriguing. Tony Goldwyn's performance was easy on the ears. But the audio skipping was really annoying.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah J. Townsend Lebanon, Virginia United States 01-18-17
    Deborah J. Townsend Lebanon, Virginia United States 01-18-17 Listener Since 2008

    skylark

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    "Non-fiction That Reads Like A Good Story"

    Fascinating intertwined stories around the Chicago World Fair. Well written and well narrated, you won't want to put it down.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Devin 12-30-16
    Devin 12-30-16
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    "Great story, poor recording"

    The story is intricate and haunting but never boring. The latter half of the digital file had a lot of "squelchy" sounds but there were intermittent that you could follow the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-13-16
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    "I guess I wanted more of a horror story"

    Interesting, but I guess I was looking for something else. Seem to focus more on the building of the world fair than I was expecting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Kennefick Saint Paul, MN 11-23-16
    K. Kennefick Saint Paul, MN 11-23-16

    I am a high school teacher that is falling back in love with reading.

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

    The story kept me wanting to listen on as there were two stories going on at the same time. It is a great combination of murder mystery and historical fiction.


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

    I really learned a lot about the Chicago's World Fair.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason 10-01-16
    Jason 10-01-16
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    "Buy the unabridged"

    I feel like the abridged left out some interesting details from the story. Overall great book though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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