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The Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic, Madness, And The Fair That Changed America

55 Ratings: 3.5
A book by Erik Larson

The 1893 Chicago World's Fair is the setting for this true account of two very different men: the celebrated architect Daniel H. Burnham, who designed and supervised the construction of the "White City" around which the fair was built; … see full wiki

Author: Erik Larson
Genre: History
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: May 03, 2005
29 reviews about The Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic,...
review by . September 30, 2008
Creepy-cool history of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, intertwined with the history of the serial killer H. H. Holmes who was operating at and around the Fair and may have accounted for anywhere from 9 (confirmed) to 50 (suspected) to even 200 (conjectured) murders.     Reads like an atmospheric slasher novel, except it is history, and thoroughly footnoted from contemporary accounts as well as secondary sources. The couple of scenes where Larson assumes an omniscient authorial …
review by . May 19, 2010
Murder, Mayhem, and National Pride
Erik Larson must have spent a year just doing the research for The Devil in the White City. I probably learned more about our nation's history from reading this book than I did in an entire college course. In the book, Larson combines two stories: the story of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the story of H.H. Holmes, one of the U.S.'s first serial killers. This is an incredible story, and each page of the book is filled with little tidbits that make you think, "Hmm...why did …
review by . October 09, 2010
As Chicago entered the final decade of the 19th century, it was a black city with a black heart, a figurative and literal pig sty run by a civil administration rife with graft and dominated by the stink of the pig slaughtering industry that was run by the local equivalent of capitalist robber barons. In a shocking affront to New York City's insufferable sense of superiority, Chicago's city fathers somehow won the right to host the 1893 World Fair. Despite the astonishing crime rates, the …
Quick Tip by . October 09, 2010
An interesting, informative and exciting juxtaposition of two wildly different historical events that took place in Chicago - the creation of the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the terror of America's first documented serial killer, Dr H.H. Holmes.
review by . July 15, 2010
I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction but this book was amazing. I was spellbound as I read. The author did a great job of describing the time period, it made me almost sad to live now and not then. I was in awe at the descriptions of architecture and building even though I previously had no experience with either of these. That, combined with the descriptions of the "evil" guy's psychotic personality was a great combination that kept me turning the pages. I would recommend …
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
good stuff, learned a lot and got freaked out!
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Loved this! Great look at a unique moment in history and a little known serial killer - nicely woven into one.
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
An excellent combining of history with imagination. Erik Larsen weaves plots together in this book with great skill!
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
Enjoyed the dark subject matter and historical recount of the world's fair.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
Great story and a lot of Chicago history to boot.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
I cant believe i read this whole thing, but it is actually pretty good.
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
It was amazing to me that there had been yet another serial killer in Chicago's past and I had never heard about it until I read this book. It was very interesting and I learned a lot about Chicago
Quick Tip by . June 14, 2010
an interesting look into the worlds fair in Chicago and the evil that lurked.
Quick Tip by . June 11, 2010
book sucks
review by . June 11, 2010
What was your emotional reaction as you read? Why?      I didn't really have any emotional response, per say.     Who would you recommend this reading to and why?      I would recommend this book to individuals who like reading historical stories. Consider the setting.      Late 1800's Chicago, world fair. Consider character development.      Mostly focused on Holmes, the murderer, not the …
Quick Tip by . June 04, 2010
Fascinating book.
review by . March 05, 2009
One of the best documentary books I have ever read. As many people have stated, if you didn't know it you would think it was a novel because of the detail of what people were thinking at the time. The story is about two main events heading towards collision. One is about the one man pulling out all stops to provide the best World's Fair to date, with limited time and a super long list of obstacles. The other is a serial killer who preys on young women. The killer sets himself up relatively close …
review by . November 03, 2008
It took me 2 weeks to get through this book. Mainly because it's been crazy in my life lately, but also because this is, in some ways, a dry book. I was fascinated by the architecture and building practices of the time. The history of foundations in the Chicago area, the time/effort/labor it took, all that stuff interested me. BUT it did seem to drag on and on at times. The Holmes connection wasn't really connected, it happened at the same time and I think the fair only allowed him to get away with …
review by . August 09, 2008
Not too many people these days have heard of the infamous Doctor HH Holmes or the Columbian Exposition. Both were major news stories over a hundred years ago, but now are forgotten.    This book aims to change that, and it does so admirably. You get a real feeling of what life was like in Chicago and, indeed, much of America in the Guilded Age. You also see that serial killers like John Wayne Gacey, Ted Bundy and others are hardly a new development in crime.    What …
review by . August 01, 2007
A reader of The Devil in the White City can't help but notice that  the author uses the style and techniques of a novelist. Tiny out-  of-place observations in one chapter become crucial several   chapters on. The story is told with the voice of a suspenseful tale  even though the exact details are widely known. The narration  shifts in thoroughly post-modern style between two perspectives.  There's also a wonderful balance between hopeful, …
review by . September 02, 2006
This is an interesting book that I would have much preferred as two separate reading experiences... The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson.    Larson's book takes a look at an event in American history that was the birthplace of many things we take for granted today... Chicago's Worlds Fair, aka "The White City", that took place in the 1890's. The "devil" in the title is the true story of H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who murdered an unknown number of women during that time …
review by . February 20, 2006
I had of course heard of the Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair of 1893), but had never really given it much of a thought. This was my misfortune, because after reading THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, I was simply floored at the incredible story of the creation of the fair, it's impact both positive and negative on the future of America, and the stories of the people who made it happen.    What the writer has done SO well is made this bit of history flow like the most exciting …
review by . July 31, 2004
Pros: Good history, great suspense, reads like fiction, but is based on fact.     Cons: Not one that I can think of!     The Bottom Line: I was fascinated by the material in this book and very pleased with the reading of it. It gives a great feel for the time period discussed.     This book was assigned as the book for my students' UIL competition. I bought it but didn't get around to it for a while. Gearing up for the competition, I checked …
review by . April 05, 2004
Ok- I know that is a cheesy title for a review, but it is completely true! Larson has morphed together two short pieces of history into one book. We have the story of the great Architect, Burhnam and his amazing (and almost unbelievable) struggle in organizing the 1893 Chicago Worlds's fair. The second story revloves around the Holmes, a serial killer, who happened to live in Chicago at the time of the exposition. The truth be known - these two events are almost completely unrelated. The exposition …
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