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The Devil in the White City (2003)

by Erik Larson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
22,283702175 (4)1 / 1009
History. Sociology. True Crime. Nonfiction. HTML:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER ‚?Ę The true tale of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death.
‚??Relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel .... It doesn‚??t hurt that this truth is stranger than fiction.‚?Ě ‚??The New York Times
Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America‚??s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair‚??s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country‚??s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his ‚??World‚??s Fair Hotel‚?Ě just west of the fairgrounds‚??a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. 
Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.
The Devil in the White City draws the reader into the enchantment of the Guilded Age, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson‚??s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the g
… (more)

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    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)
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    Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Harold Schechter (jseger9000)
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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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    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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    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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    bnbookgirl: mixing true crime with historical event

(see all 29 recommendations)

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» See also 1009 mentions

English (695)  Danish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (699)
Showing 1-5 of 695 (next | show all)
I listened to this in audiobook format.

This is a non-fiction story about parallel happenings in the late Victorian era of Chicago: The World's Fair and the criminal life of serial killer H. H. Holmes who lived adjacent to the fairgrounds. I found this book to be very interesting, though some of the architecture and construction details were on the tedious side. I enjoyed how Larson used these stories to give the reader a window into American and Chicagoan society during the late 1800s. The stories unfold largely like a work of fiction, though it's not a page turner. There's definitely more content about the lead up to the fair than on the murders. It was clearly extremely well researched and there are so many cool historical tie-ins to the fair that were brought to light. A worthwhile read. ( )
  technodiabla | May 22, 2024 |
Honestly, I had seen this book hyped so much that I was really a little disappointed. I found it to be very dry at times and I'm not sure that incorporating the two storylines of the creation of the World's Fair in Chicago juxtaposed against the Holmes murders really worked all that well. Ironically, I found the fair more interesting that the salacious murders. ( )
1 vote AliceAnna | Apr 18, 2024 |
It's like browsing through the catalogs in the library, or the web, you never know what intersting & surprising facts might turn up ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
This was good, although the reason it didn't get a 4-star rating was because it was anti-climatic. I would have liked to read a little more about the reactions of the families of all the girls they knew Holmes had killed, and/or read some of the letters written about missing family members who went to the World's Fair. There was no inclusion of Burnham's view of Holmes or any awareness of what went on during that time, though Larson alludes to the fact that Burnham did know or had occasion to comment on the murders. Larson is a great writer, but the end felt rushed--he could have left out several things that seemed to drag on about the fair and included more of Holmes' atrocities to make this an equal accounting. I thought, by the title, that the book would be more about Holmes than the Fair, but that is not the case at all. It was more about the Chicago World's Fair than anything else. ( )
  BrandyWinn | Feb 2, 2024 |
Excellent NF about the 1892-3 Chicago Worlds Fair and a serial killer that did most of his gruesome business at the same time and in close proximity to the tair.
  derailer | Jan 25, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 695 (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 (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erik Larsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goldwyn, TonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tézenas, HubertTraductionsecondary 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

‚ÄĒand 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‚Äď65, 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
Publisher's editors
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Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
History. Sociology. True Crime. Nonfiction. HTML:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER ‚?Ę The true tale of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death.
‚??Relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel .... It doesn‚??t hurt that this truth is stranger than fiction.‚?Ě ‚??The New York Times
Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America‚??s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair‚??s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country‚??s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his ‚??World‚??s Fair Hotel‚?Ě just west of the fairgrounds‚??a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. 
Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.
The Devil in the White City draws the reader into the enchantment of the Guilded Age, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson‚??s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the g

No library descriptions found.

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)

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