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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
16,587584179 (4)1 / 886
  1. 113
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (bnbookgirl)
  2. 81
    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. 60
    The Infamous Burke and Hare: Serial Killers and Resurrectionists of Nineteenth Century Edinburgh by R. Michael Gordon (cammykitty)
  4. 60
    Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King (jbgryphon)
  5. 50
    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
  6. 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.
  7. 30
    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  8. 30
    Heartland Serial Killers: Belle Gunness, Johann Hoch, and Murder for Profit in Gaslight Era Chicago by Richard C. Lindberg (meggyweg)
  9. 41
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Offering rich details of Savannah in the 1980s (Midnight in the Garden) and Chicago in the 1890s (Devil in the White City), these well-researched and dramatic recreations of terrible crimes are equally compelling, despite differences in time period and location.… (more)
  10. 20
    The Inventor and the Tycoon by Edward Ball (davesmind)
  11. 31
    Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott (DK_Atkinson, g33kgrrl)
  12. 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.
  13. 20
    Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen by Nicholas Connell (mysterymax)
  14. 32
    The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (P.S.) 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).
  15. 10
    Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War by James Mauro (ghr4)
  16. 21
    The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (elbakerone)
  17. 00
    The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The Devil In the White City and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher are compelling and richly detailed books about historical true crime. These stories present not only details about the crime but also about the social mores of the time.
  18. 00
    Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris by Steven Levingston (Luchtpint)
  19. 00
    The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr (Luchtpint)
  20. 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

(see all 29 recommendations)

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English (576)  Danish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (580)
Showing 1-5 of 576 (next | show all)
Tedious. I found myself skimming over huge sections of this. I struggled to stay awake. This book is another case of a bad title, but this time I found the subject matter incredibly boring. The majority of the text is consumed with minor details of engineering and architecture. Never would I have read a book about engineering and architecture. I would have loved a book about the World's Fair and Victorian morals and society. Ordinary people. People I could relate to. But that's not really what I got. I got a book about boring people doing boring things around the World's Fair.

I was reading it as a true crime book, so I thought it was a colossal snooze fest. I mean, the title is The Devil In The White City. Not Upper Crust Old-Timey Chicago Businessmen In The White City. The true-crime parts about H.H. Holmes were very short and mechanical - Not good true crime writing at all. I read [a:Harold Schechter|51490|Harold Schechter|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1255731750p2/51490.jpg]'s book, [b:Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-Of-The-Century Chicago|558695|Depraved The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-Of-The-Century Chicago|Harold Schechter|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1266585192s/558695.jpg|1188069], about Holmes and he was an interesting lunatic, so I was interested in a different author's take on him. Turns out, the guy used Schechter as a source. Could have saved a whole bunch of time if I'd known.

I managed to make it to the end. The epilogue is where I just shook my head. The author cites Truman Capote's [b:In Cold Blood|168642|In Cold Blood|Truman Capote|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1424931136s/168642.jpg|1940709] as one of the sources for his muse. He states that he hopes that he has lived up to the standard set by Capote.

No. Dude, not even close. He wrote about human beings with passions and lives. You wrote about buildings and profit. ( )
  authenticjoy | Mar 29, 2019 |
I was inspired by an post on Instagram encouraging reading books that have been on your shelf a long time. This one has probably been unread on my shelf the longest, seriously years and years. I was vaguely familiar with the HH Holmes story because it came up in a crime literature class in college, but I wanted to know more, plus this book has been hyped forever.
I’m glad I read it but I can’t say it’s a favorite. I found it very slow for the first 2/3 and it almost seems like two books, the story of Burnham and building the world’s fair and the HH Holmes creepy hotel of horror have very little overlap and each could stand alone. (Though tbh the building of the fair portions of the book weren’t that interesting to me and read more like a history textbook than I would like for a recreational read.) The history of Chicago was enjoyable
The last 50 or so pages redeemed the slowness of the bulk of the novel and increased my opinion of it. The whole book is incredibly well researched and intelligent, but there were so many peripheral characters in the architecture portion I just wanted to fast forward through some of those chapters.
I will definitely look forward to checking out Jackson park next time we are in Chicago, I didn’t realize the museum of science and industry is built on the north end of the park where the world’s fair took place, we’ve visited that museum dozens of times and had no idea.
I feel like I am the last person on earth to read this book so there’s nothing new in this review, but I’m happy to have one book no longer languishing on my shelf. 3.5/5 stars ⭐️ ( )
  justjoshinreads | Mar 22, 2019 |
There was nothing wrong with this book. He found two great stories and a bunch of juicy peripherals. He wrote it up entertainingly enough and... that's it. It's all a bit "written". It has none of the shocking immediacy of In Cold Blood and none of the charm of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It's serviceable. Competently delivered but serviceable. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
The Devil in the White City was one of the reasons I dropped some of the challenges. It has been on the pile for awhile, and I really wanted to read it after my visit to Chicago last summer.

And, I was rewarded by a great read. Erik Larson captures the grandeur of the age as America completes with Paris to create an amazing, unparalleled experience for fair attendees. The stories wind together: Ferris and his wheel, the assassination of the mayor, and, the "devil" of the title, a cruel murderer who took advantage of the fair to attract victims.

It was an against all odds kind of story: the opening of the fair coincided with the panic of 1893, which began just days after its opening. The weather itself seemed to hold a grudge against the fair, with rain and unprecedented storms wreaking havoc several times. But the fair organizers, a list that included Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmstead, persevered and created a fantasy world for the public, including soaring sculptures, neo classical buildings, and an exotic village that became the first fair midway. ( )
  witchyrichy | Feb 18, 2019 |
I enjoy reading a book that teaches me about something I didn't know, and while I had heard of the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, I didn't know the details. I found it a fascinating read, for the most part. I also had not heard of H. H. Holmes and his sordid story. I looked up pictures and additional information on the internet as I read. The only complaint I have is that during the chapters on the construction of the fair, I often got bogged down in names and what the role of the people mentioned was. It was a tad tedious reading about all the complaints and the prediction that the Fair would not be ready in time over and over again. Once the fair opened, however, these chapters became more interesting. I can't say that "enjoyed" is the right word when it came to reading about someone as sick as Holmes, but his chapters were interesting in their own way. ( )
  hobbitprincess | Feb 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 576 (next | show all)
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
Larson, Erikprimary 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)
A glittering fair,
Like a white gauze covering,
Horrifying scars.
(hillaryrose7)

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:04 -0400)

(see all 9 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 16 descriptions

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