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The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
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The Devil in the White City (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Erik Larson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,460503138 (4.01)1 / 786
Member:voracious
Title:The Devil in the White City
Authors:Erik Larson
Info:Vintage Books (2003), Edition: 1st Vintage Bks. Ed., 2003, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:**
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Work details

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson (2003)

  1. 112
    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.
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    Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King (jbgryphon)
  4. 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
  5. 50
    The Infamous Burke and Hare: Serial Killers and Resurrectionists of Nineteenth Century Edinburgh by R. Michael Gordon (cammykitty)
  6. 40
    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)
  7. 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.
  8. 30
    Heartland Serial Killers: Belle Gunness, Johann Hoch, and Murder for Profit in Gaslight Era Chicago by Richard C. Lindberg (meggyweg)
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    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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    Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen by Nicholas Connell (mysterymax)
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    The Inventor and the Tycoon by Edward Ball (davesmind)
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    The Surgeon of Crowthorne : A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words 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. 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.
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    The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (elbakerone)
  15. 21
    Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott (DK_Atkinson)
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    Conquering Gotham : a Gilded Age epic : the construction of Penn Station and its tunnels by Jill Jonnes (AnnaClaire)
  17. 00
    The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House 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.
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    The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements by Woody Register (SomeGuyInVirginia)
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    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)

(see all 26 recommendations)

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English (498)  Danish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (502)
Showing 1-5 of 498 (next | show all)
A riveting look into America's first serial killer, 'The Devil in the White City' is a great read for murder buffs, historians, and serial killer enthusiasts. Well written, and not as dry as one would expect a true crime book to be, Erik Larson gives the reader a view into more than just Dr. Holmes and his deadly hotel. The World Fair was a major landmark in American history, and the cameos by notables of the time only enhance the feeling that you are watching event unfold. ( )
  LilyRoseShadowlyn | Sep 17, 2016 |
This book really should have been divided into two... One about the Chicago World's Fair and one about Holmes. The two stories never really had much to do with the other besides the time period, therefore the switching back and forth was more irritating than anything. Still really liked both stories. Well, the sections on gardening and horticulture I will freely admit I skipped through, but the rest was interesting. This is one of my favorite time periods in American history. ( )
  GoldenDarter | Sep 15, 2016 |
Erik Larson should be a Pulitzer-winner--should, but isn't. May never be. And there are several reasons. First, although a tireless researcher (I couldn't believe my eyes when I read in his endnotes that he doesn't employ a researcher), he takes liberties that I, as a former journalist and as a writer of nonfiction, find extremely uncomfortable. While some details are sourced--the heavy penstroke of the mayor's assassin on a postcard--others are not. Larson writes how characters were "feeling" in spots where he had no access to those characters--no interviews from which to make such assertions, for example. There are times, even, when he talks about someone smiling during a conversation, glancing away, et cetera. To his credit, Larson acknowledges the thorniness of this approach, but he limits the apologia to two depictions of murder. He also relied on experts on psychopaths to draw what feel like definitive conclusions about Holmes' motivation and state of mind. I can't buy in to this without feeling icky, and I suspect that this "truthiness" is one reason the Pulitzer committee may not award him the prize for nonfiction. (On the other hand, memoirs have won the Pulitzer in nonfiction, so there's that.)

Another reason is Larson's writing. He's a frustrating writer for me to read, because so much of his writing is excellent. Superb, even. There are touches here that are wonderful, inventive description, and a very fine narrative structure. On the other hand, the book is rife with single-sentence paragraphs consisting of a purple declarative statement. There are areas where the writing is so breathless that it's almost embarrassing. Larson's writing is strong enough that I don't need to be convinced as to the compelling nature of the subject matter. He intertwines these two narrative threads very well that I don't need to be solicited to stay in the game with overblown prose. There's also a lot of telegraphing, which I abhor. The "Later, he would wonder why he held on to that note." This is probably just a pet peeve of mine, but whenever I see it in writing I strike it out. You're drawing my attention to something by waving a big flag, and it's distracting and disappointing.

This is why, as an instructor of nonfiction writing, I can't recommend Larson as a model. And this may be why he will not win a Pulitzer when I think he's probably a very good candidate. I do want to say I love the attention he paid to Olmstead and Olmstead's vision of landscape architecture. I like how clear he was in delineating the art in the discipline. I will be sending this book to my landscape architect sister--I know she will feel understood. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
An incredibly interesting book with many interesting facts I didn't know. I found the part about the Chicago World's Fair much more interesting than the part about the serial killer. ( )
  KamGeb | Aug 21, 2016 |
A dual story of the planning and building of the Chicago Columbian Expo of 1893 and a serial killer in Chicago at the same time.Most of the Expo part of the story is quite interesting-there are some slow spots,but it is worth it to continue on!Both storylines are interesting on their own,but the stories combined make this book a page turner!
Many well known architects and famous people of the day are featured in thsi book. It was interesting to know that Disneyland/World had their roots in this Expo!
I give alot of credit to the author for his research! ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 498 (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
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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Original language
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:04 -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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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