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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 1716)

by Erik Larson (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
16,229571175 (4.01)1 / 869
Member:pkg427
Title:The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson (2004-02-10)
Authors:Erik Larson (Author)
Info:Vintage (1716)
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

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

  1. 113
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (bnbookgirl)
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    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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    The Infamous Burke and Hare: Serial Killers and Resurrectionists of Nineteenth Century Edinburgh by R. Michael Gordon (cammykitty)
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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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    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. 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)
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    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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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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    Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen by Nicholas Connell (mysterymax)
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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.
  13. 31
    Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott (DK_Atkinson, g33kgrrl)
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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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    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.
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(see all 28 recommendations)

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English (566)  Danish (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (570)
Showing 1-5 of 566 (next | show all)
Mother/daughter-in-law book club pick. It seems like Larson couldn't decide if he was writing non-fiction or historical fiction for most of the book - many of the scenes are speculative (such as the scene where the resident serial killer takes his wife and sister-in-law on a tour of the hog-butchering factory). That kind of bugged me - I was never sure if I was reading a true account of something or not.

This book was certainly full of interesting historical tidbits regarding the Chicago World's Fair, but most of the book was bogged down with much more uninteresting details. For instance, Larson spends several pages describing the visit of a somewhat obscure author (Theodore Dreiser) to the Fair, but then glosses over other details with one sentence: the Columbian Guard "investigated the discovery on the [Fair's] grounds of three fetuses." I want to hear more about those fetuses!

The serial killer story was also unappealing to me - I've never been a fan of true crime, and it was truly creepy to try to delve inside this man's mind.

This book was very readable, however, and despite the author's habit of ending every chapter (sometimes every paragraph) on a sentence that sounded like a cliffhanger, that fact made it a little more enjoyable.
  aratiel | Sep 5, 2018 |
The late 1800's was a time of immense progress and innovation, and nothing embodied that sense of change and growth quite like Chicago at the behest of The World's Fair. A feat of architectural and scientific genius, it put the young architect, Daniel Burham on the map as one of the most well known architects of his time, possibly in history. While Chicago grew by leaps and bounds another, more sinister force was at work. HH Holmes, the handsome, young doctor, put down roots in Chicago and used its booming population as a hunting ground to satisfy his deepest fantasies; torture, murder, and human dissection. Two men, one city, during the turn of the century making Chicago (in)famous for two very different reasons.

I'll just start off with the negatives here. I didn't realize there would be SO MUCH about Burnham and the planning, building, and running of The Worlds Fair. While some parts were interesting and engaging, on the whole, it was dull, lengthy, and not so much fun to read. I had assumed the book would primarily focus on the life and crimes of HH Holmes (known as Americas first serial killer) which was a far more fascinating story in my opinion. If you are a fan of non-fiction- the Burnham story-line may be the thing for you, but for me, I could have done without.

That being said, I gobbled up all the chapters about HH Holmes. It was a really comprehensive look into his life and day to day goings on. His level of psychopathy was chilling while at the same time fascinating. I would have much preferred the book to solely focus on his story line.

Overall I would still consider this a good read and recommend it to all my fans of true crime and nonfiction alike. ( )
  courtneygiraldo | Sep 4, 2018 |
This was a really hard book for me. I thought the information was great, but the stories didn’t really interconnect for me, so I think I would have liked it much better if it had been 2 separate books.
For more reviews see my blog: https://adventuresofabibliophile.blogspot.com ( )
  Serinde24 | Aug 17, 2018 |
Super read about the Colombian World Exposition (Chicago World's Fair of 1893). Putting the entire show together were all the best American architects. Wonderful descriptions of the exhibits and the horrible crimes that were being committed close by as Dr. H.H. Holmes set up shop nearby. Preying on the women and some men coming to Chicago in search of fortune, Holmes systematically tortures and murders several of them. An eerie telling of two separate but related tales.
  Kevin.Bokay | Aug 5, 2018 |
What a crazy and beautifully written book. It gave me chills. You'd think a book about a fair in the 1890s would be boring af, but it's not! Even when you take out the serial killer parts, the development of the White City is filled with drama and great descriptions. The main focus is on Burnham, the main architect to build a fair in Chicago. He has to overcome bureaucrat mess, a strict timeline, growing unions, and various obstacles. But while all this is coming together there's a sick serial killer out there that the cops have no idea about and he's taking full advantage of the extra visitors of the fair, H. H. Holmes. He poisons women and children and does some horrible things to them. His set up is a few streets away from the White City, people have no idea what kind of person he really is. Holmes comes off friendly and manipulates people to his will. He was a true psychopath. It's sad that something so tragic was going on while Chicago was enchanted by the White City. ( )
  wellreadcatlady | Jul 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 566 (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)

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 16 descriptions

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