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

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Crown Publishers, 2003 - History - 447 pages
431 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.

To find out more about this book, go to http://www.DevilInTheWhiteCity.com.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - BookConcierge - LibraryThing

Larson writes so well and is really able to transport the reader back in time to the period. But I'm not sure his parallel plot lines (building the white city and the serial killer) did full justice to either story. Still, his writing is compelling. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DVerdecia - LibraryThing

The story of the World's fair in Chicago in the late 1800s. Along for the ride came the first of many identified serial killers, one HH Holmes, hence the title of the book, Devil in the White City. I ... 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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