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

Front Cover
Crown Publishers, 2003 - History - 447 pages
673 Reviews
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works 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 the reader 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. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

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.

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The vivid imagery and detail is eye-opening. - Goodreads
The author really did his research. - Goodreads
I only wish there had been more illustrations. - Goodreads

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

User Review  - Allison - Goodreads

Everyone recommends this book like it is fascinating, but I think it is lacking and kinda slow paced. It started off interesting, but as it progressed I felt like less detail was given about the fair ... Read full review

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

User Review  - Sandy Watson - Goodreads

This book is more like a 4 and 1/2. I knew nothing previously of Chicago's 1893 Worlds Fair. Due to the backers and architects dragging their feet, plus natural disasters, it was difficult to conceive ... Read full review

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About the author (2003)

Erik Larson lives in Seattle with his wife, three daughters, a Chinese fighting fish, a dwarf hamster, and a golden retriever named Molly.

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