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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… (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Erik Larson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,277497141 (4.01)1 / 780
Member:Auggie
Title:The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
Authors:Erik Larson
Info:Vintage (2004), Paperback, 447 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:01/23/2013

Work details

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

  1. 102
    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)
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    jseger9000: Another account of H.H. Holmes
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    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.
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    Heartland Serial Killers: Belle Gunness, Johann Hoch, and Murder for Profit in Gaslight Era Chicago by Richard C. Lindberg (meggyweg)
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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).
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    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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    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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(see all 26 recommendations)

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English (492)  Danish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (496)
Showing 1-5 of 492 (next | show all)
This book was recommended to me by a colleague, and after hearing how much she had enjoyed the history surrounding the World's Fair in Chicago and the serial killer H.H. Holmes, I knew I had to read it. I borrowed the audiobook from my library, and I have to say that I wasn't disappointed. The Devil in the White City chronicles the lives of the architects as they struggled to build something to rival the Eiffel Tower, which has been presented the year before. The Fair brought many new sights, including the invention of the Ferris Wheel. But it also became a stomping ground for one of America's first serial killers: H.H. Holmes. ( )
  philae_02 | Jul 8, 2016 |
A very entertaining non-fiction. I learned so much, but the facts were not presented in a dull way, instead woven throughout a historically accurate story. ( )
  BrittanyLyn | Jun 22, 2016 |
What. a. truly. amazing. book. Either concept alone would have proved interesting for the buffs in architecture or who enjoy true crime, but to wind the two events together takes masterful skill. Yes, one would have had H.H. Holmes in the 1890's, but he operated the way he did because of the burgeoning of the building of the World's Fair. Yes, the White City was built, and at what an extraordinary cost.

The depth of research into the details of the lives of historical individuals translates well onto the page and makes them more human than legend. The name Olmstead is well-known, for example, through his work as a landscape architect; to know that he also suffered from severe insomnia, toothache, and other complaints made him more sympathetic for the work that he left behind.

Details about the different pavilions, the breakdown of the architect of the Women's Pavilion, the storms that came off the Lake that tore down buildings in progress; all these are events that happened that pushed the need to finish just a little more difficult.

And H.H. Holmes! The effrontery the man had is typical of those born without a conscience. His take, such as we know it from court records, is that he wanted a home with different rooms or vaults where he could put his victims, and he was also enough of a con man to build such a house without paying a pittance to his workers or to his creditors. How many young women fell prey to him we'll sadly never know, but he does begin early in the long line of American psychopathic killers.

Especially good was the way in which the subjects were divided: a few chapters on the World's Fair, then a few on Holmes. Then when you think it can't get any darker, you can return to the creation of the White City. Masterful bit of editing and writing. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
Eric Larson is a skillful historian who weaves two separate stories that follow the same timeline. Very interesting book. ( )
  nurse73 | Jun 11, 2016 |
This was a very good story that has two parallel tales about the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893 and the story of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer operating in the Chicago area during the fair.
The main people involved in planning and executing the fair are Daniel Burnham, a local architect with his partner John Root. They seize the opportunity to prove that their city is more than a railway hub and a city of stockyards. They want to dispel the inferiority complex that the city feels relative to New York and Philadelphia. They manage to convince the planning committee that Chicago will produce a better fair than the last world's fair in Paris. In the ensuing months, the trials and tribulations facing the planning committee, the delays, the bickering, politics and finances are fascinating. The fair opens in April 1893 with many buildings and sites not completed. The attraction that will outdo the Eiffel Tower does not open untied July and it is a huge success as it is the first Ferris wheel.
During this time, the USA is going through bank collapses, labour strife and unemployment which had an impact in attendance.
The other story that intersects with this is that of H.H. Holmes, a very charming and handsome medical doctor who settles in Chicago's Englewood neighbourhood and begins his life of murder. Today he would be described as a psychopath. He builds a successful business ad also builds a hotel like building in which he performs his murders. He marries several times and defrauds suppliers, builders, labourers and insurance companies. He is finally arrested in Philadelphia and enough evidence is uncovered to find him guilty. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Jun 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 492 (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.)
Disambiguation notice
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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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