Devil in the White City

Posted August 18, 2017 by Books & Alochol Girls in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

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Devil in the White City
Erik Larson
February 10, 2004

The Devil in the White City, the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

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” 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 a time of magic and majesty, 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 great fair that obsessed them both.

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Devil in the White City is an amazing piece of non-fiction. I don’t often read non-fiction and was worried that I would find the story boring. I was pleasantly intrigued from beginning to end.

Erik Larson is wonderful at weaving the tale of history in such a way as to make you feel like you’re reading a fictional story. The great feats that had to be overcome to build the fair alongside the horrendous tale of H.H. Holmes will keep you turning pages. It was great to read something and to learn at the same time. I never knew what it took for so many men great and small to see the fair to fruition. It would be amazing if fairs and festivals today saw as much drive and ingenuity.

Of course the main reason of why I picked up this book in the first place was to learn more about H.H. Holmes. Holmes was a wily man. Every move he made and death he orchestrated was so precise it boggles the mind. It is always interesting to read about people who take ideas and situations and turn them to their advantage. I would highly recommend Larson’s books to anyone who is looking to take a break from their usual reading. I look forward to reading more of his works in the future.

I give Devil in the White City 5 stars and would pair it with a Black Devil cocktail 

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