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

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Vintage Books, 2004 - History - 447 pages
484 Reviews

This New York Times bestseller intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

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. 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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User Review  - wellreadcatlady - LibraryThing

What a crazy and beautifully written book. It gave me chills. You'd think a book about a fair in the 1890s would be boring af, but it's not! Even when you take out the serial killer parts, the ... Read full review

User Review  - Gloria W. - Overstock.com

Read this book for a class. There were interesting parts, but all in all it was not he most interesting of books Ive read. The subject matter was interesting, but did not love this book. Read full review

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Contents

An Awful Fight 111
111
In the White City 233
233
Cruelty Revealed 337
337
The Last Crossing 371
371
Bibliography425
425
Acknowledgments 431
431
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About the author (2004)

ERIK LARSON is the author of four national bestsellers: In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm, which have collectively sold more than 5.5 million copies. His magazine stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and other publications and his books have been published in fourteen countries.

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