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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.

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12,539427189 (4.01)1 / 658
19th century (179) America (59) American (69) American History (252) architecture (379) biography (92) book club (89) Chicago (1,095) chicago history (43) Chicago World's Fair (243) crime (342) fiction (201) H.H. Holmes (46) historical (99) historical fiction (128) history (1,382) Illinois (56) murder (357) mystery (174) non-fiction (1,440) own (61) read (190) serial killer (465) to-read (216) true crime (510) unread (78) US History (80) USA (82) World Fair 1893 (75) World's Fair (487)
  1. 72
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (bnbookgirl)
  2. 61
    Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson (thatwordnerd)
    thatwordnerd: Both books tell a true story, with a multitude of sources, but are written in a way that makes the reader feel as if it is almost fiction. The reader (see more) is not hit over the head with facts and is able to get sucked into the story and the era.
  3. 40
    Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King (jbgryphon)
  4. 40
    Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Harold Schechter (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: Another account of H.H. Holmes
  5. 40
    American Gothic by Robert Bloch (CarlT)
    CarlT: Though AMERICAN GOTHIC is fiction and THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY is non-fiction, both books are based on the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 (nicknamed "The White City") and the horrific murders committed by serial killer Henry H. Holmes.
  6. 30
    Heartland Serial Killers: Belle Gunness, Johann Hoch, and Murder for Profit in Gaslight Era Chicago by Richard C. Lindberg (meggyweg)
  7. 31
    The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago by Douglas Perry (browner56)
    browner56: Two fascinating looks at murder and mayhem in the Windy City at the turn of the last century.
  8. 20
    The Infamous Burke and Hare: Serial Killers and Resurrectionists of Nineteenth Century Edinburgh by R. Michael Gordon (cammykitty)
  9. 20
    Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen by Nicholas Connell (mysterymax)
  10. 20
    The inventor and the tycoon by Edward Ball (davesmind)
  11. 21
    The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (elbakerone)
  12. 11
    The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Both concern late-19th C American killers in the backdrop of a bigger social story of advancement (Chicago Fair and Oxford English Dictionary).
  13. 00
    Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count by Jill Jonnes (Anonymous user, itbgc)
  14. 00
    The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt (JGoto)
  15. 00
    The Devil's Rooming House: The True Story of America's Deadliest Female Serial Killer by M. William Phelps (bnbookgirl)
    bnbookgirl: mixing true crime with historical event
  16. 11
    Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott (DK_Atkinson)
  17. 00
    Conquering Gotham : a Gilded Age epic : the construction of Penn Station and its tunnels by Jill Jonnes (AnnaClaire)
  18. 00
    The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements by Woody Register (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  19. 11
    Michelangelo & The Pope's Ceiling by Ross King (elbakerone)
  20. 23
    Hellhound on His Trail : the Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the International Hunt for His Assassin by Hampton Sides (boo-radley)

(see all 23 recommendations)

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English (421)  Danish (2)  All languages (423)
Showing 1-5 of 421 (next | show all)
Great history. ( )
  hredwards | Apr 9, 2014 |
The amount of raw resources required to build the 1893 Chicago World's Fair was staggering. It is such a pity that the buildings were considered temporary and were not maintained when so much went into building them. The serial killer was also an exceptional character of evil. ( )
  AmeliaNailey | Mar 26, 2014 |
This book is a page turner and almost reads itself. It is certainly not original nor a trail blazer in literature but it is a nicely researched story.
It nicely contrasts the magnificence and the large characters involved in some way with the Chicago World's Fair. A project of this scope may be compared to today's Olympics.

Larsen has done considerable primary research and also relies on reasonable secondary sources. The reader should exercise some caution though in the reconstructed scenes and dialog. Those are done on the available evidence and what might have happened. The author acknowledges his debt to the style of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood."

The story is a grand one. Amid the dirt and smell of Chicago and the busy stockyards, architects produced a vision of classical beauty. The author rightly focuses on the architects to anchor a broad story that could otherwise easily get out of hand. ( )
  IndyTaz | Mar 20, 2014 |
Definitely a favorite.
Read aloud with Winston and we so often remark, remember something about it.
Have handed it out to many to read, also.
We're near Chicago, so much of it has some association for us and his grandfather visited the Exposition often and had many tales from it.
But you don't have to have those affinities to enjoy this true story.
Recommend.
Read in 2004. ( )
  CasaBooks | Mar 14, 2014 |
I had a love/hate relationship with this book. In the beginning, I just loved all of the detail he used in bringing the late Victorian era to life. But after a couple of hundred pages, it got a little old.

Aside from that, I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a non-fiction read. ( )
  jsamaha | Mar 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 421 (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.
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(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

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 7 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 11 descriptions

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