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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic,…
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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that… (2003)

by Erik Larson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
13,278455166 (4.01)1 / 724
Recently added byprivate library, Cleoxcat, DBK2015, apostate, WSU-CityLab, wjwetzel, nmbeauchamp, NewLiz
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English (451)  Danish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (454)
Showing 1-5 of 451 (next | show all)
I enjoyed Mr. Larson's portrayal of murder and architecture in the Gilded age. Being the first book I had the pleasure of reading in almost six months it was good start to a new commitment of reading. ( )
  wjwetzel | May 27, 2015 |
After reading Dead Wake, I wanted to read another book by Erik Larson. While I am not a fan of non fiction, Mr. Larson has made a convert of me. This book is about the Chicago World's Fair, which by its self would be exciting enough. However, along side this story is the story of Dr. Holmes, one of the first serial killers who uses the fair to his advantage. Couldn't put it down. ( )
  Dianekeenoy | May 19, 2015 |
Well researched, true, parallel stories of the Chicago World's Fair and a serial killer. ( )
  starkravingmad | May 9, 2015 |
Eric Larson pulls off a great sleight-of-hand. In "The Devil in the White City," he focuses on two men--Daniel Burnham, architect responsible for the great 1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who made Chicago his home at the time. In juxtaposing these two lives, one might be led to believe that the two had some sort of connection. But they never met. Their lives never really intersected in any way. For all the connection they had with with each other, Burnham could just as much been linked with a trash collector working at his Fair, Holmes with the mayor of Chicago. (And in fact, trash collectors and the Mayor do pass through the book, too.)

But here's where Larson works his magic: to ask such questions about his approach doesn't occur to the reader until he puts the book down. I enjoyed the book immensely.

I certainly learned more about the Columbian Exposition and its important influence than I ever did before. I grew up only about 40 miles from where the Fair had been staged, and have been to the site where it once stood--Chicago's Jackson Park--but I never had any idea about the magnificent thing that had happened there in 1892, and how the whole world had been drawn to it. How could something so great have happened in my backyard and I not have known about it?

Similarly, who today knows about the serial killer H.H. Holmes? Jack the Ripper still haunts popular consciousness, but the Ripper was only responsible for about a half-dozen killer. Holmes not only likely killed many times that, but he was a monster in the cold-blooded means he pursued his victims. How did he get lost to the collective memory?

I had some other reservations about the book. For all the focus on Burnham and Holmes, they still remained rather elusive characters, in that in many ways we're left with questions about what made them tick (something perhaps impossible ever to know about Holmes). And Larson exercises some license telling us what's going on on some indiividuals' heads, when obviously any of us can only speculate on that.

Nonetheless, it was a page turner and a great read. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
A decent read, but would have been better off focusing only on the serial killer. The story of the Chicago World's Fair is probably quite interesting, but not in this context. ( )
  ratastrophe | Apr 9, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 451 (next | show all)
it could nearly be Broadway, but Larson - who might be the last living writer still to use the word "harbinger" - does not successfully resolve an interesting idea into a wholly cohesive narrative. Evoke as he might, Larson's pre-emptive declaration early in the book that, while both "handsome and blue eyed", the "two never met" undermines the plot of a history book that reads like fiction.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Stephen Bayley (Jul 26, 2003)
 
In ''The Devil in the White City,'' Erik Larson, the author of ''Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History,'' wants to tell the whole story, both the glory of Burnham's creation and the sordid details of the first known urban psychopath in American history. It is not a comfortable fit. He uses language well, but has little sense of pacing or focus, perhaps because of the huge amount of material available on the fair.
 
Mr. Larson has written a dynamic, enveloping book filled with haunting, closely annotated information. And it doesn't hurt that this truth really is stranger than fiction.
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erik Larsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.
Daniel H. Burnham

Director of Works

World's Columbian Exposition, 1893
I was born with the devil in me. I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than a poet can help the inspiration to sing.
Dr. H. H. Holmes

Confession

1896
Dedication
To Chris, Kristen, Lauren, and Erin,

for making it all worthwhile

—and to Molly, whose lust for socks

kept us all on our toes
First words
The date was April 14, 1912, a sinister day in maritime history, but of course the man in suite 63–65, shelter deck C, did not yet know it.
Quotations
"Suddenly New York and St. Louis wanted the fair. Washington laid claim to the honor on the grounds it was the center of government, New York because it was the center of everything. No one cared what St. Louis thought, although the city got a wink for pluck."
"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood"
"They are blue. Great murderers, like great men in other walks of activity, have blue eyes."
"In all the workforce in the park numbered four thousand. The ranks included a carpenter and furniture-maker named Elias Disney, who in coming years would tell many stories about the construction of this magical realm beside the lake. His son Walt would take note."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. --John Moe

Ar 9.2, 23 Pts
Haiku summary
Grizzly killings in

the shadow of great World's Fair

held in Chicago.

(legallypuzzled)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375725601, Paperback)

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. --John Moe

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:03 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

While Daniel H. Burnham builds the glittering 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a serial killer lures young women to a torture chamber.

» see all 12 descriptions

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