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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
16,342576177 (4.01)1 / 874
  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. 21
    The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (elbakerone)
  16. 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.
  17. 00
    Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris by Steven Levingston (Luchtpint)
  18. 00
    The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr (Luchtpint)
  19. 00
    Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War by James Mauro (ghr4)
  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 (570)  Danish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (574)
Showing 1-5 of 570 (next | show all)
I did enjoy the book overall but felt in the end that it was really two stories happening simultaneously and never came together in a meaningful way. ( )
  jeromiemolina | Nov 15, 2018 |
I’m a little on the fence about how to rate this one. It’s really two separate stories about events that happened at the same time and place - the planning and implementation of the Chicago World’s Fair and the actions of a serial killer. Both were fascinating and well researched and written, but one really wasn’t that related to the other. It bugs me when an author tries to mash two unrelated things together in the same story, so this is 3⭐️s. ( )
  redwritinghood38 | Nov 6, 2018 |
I love Erik Larson's writing. His non-fiction books read like fiction, but they are really and truly non-fiction, and he spends hours researching his topics and the people he writes about. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in 19th century American architecture, the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, or Gilded Age anecdotes. This is the fair that shaped America and put it on the world map. The exposition covered 690 acres with nearly 200 new, but definitely temporary buildings. The fair was called The White City because of all the beautifully white buildings. It was a magical place. More than 27 million people attended the fair during its six-month run. It is a story about the chief architect of the fair - Daniel H. Burnham and the fleet of architects and specialists he recruited to help design his monumental accomplishment. There are so many well-known historical figures in the book, such as Susan B. Anthony, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill and many others. There is also a parallel story in the book that follows another person of infamy who was connected with the fair - H. H. Holmes, an American serial killer who was responsible for an untold number of deaths. His victims were mostly young women who were unaccompanied as they came to Chicago to visit the fair. Why Holmes was allowed to continue the macabre torture and murder of so many poor souls without even being suspected is hard to imagine. He was a particularly charming sociopath, who was very attractive to young women. I loved the juxtaposition of this particularly sadistic murderer and the beautiful, magical White City of the World's Fair. Larson's talent is that he makes history come alive and he has done that with this book. Well worth the time to read. ( )
  Romonko | Nov 4, 2018 |
I love Erik Larson — he has spun an amazing nonfiction tale of madness and murder and really shows that nonfiction can be riveting! If you’re curious about the World’s Fair, murder and mystery, and the surrounding investigations, this one is for you!
  justagirlwithabook | Oct 20, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Aug 2009; read it in 2002):
- In the top 2 or 3 nonfiction books I've read [would still consider it a top ten]. Author so very good entwining parallel stories. Opened an entirely new page of American history to me. The drama builds to climaxes you only thought were possible in fiction. The book prompted interest in more by Mr Larson. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Oct 12, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 570 (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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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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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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