Reader reviews and comments on The Devil in the White City, plus links to write your own review.

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The Devil in the White City

Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2003, 447 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2004, 464 pages

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There are currently 17 reader reviews for The Devil in the White City
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Power Reviewer Dorothy T.

History as engaging as good fiction
The subtitle gives an excellent summary of this book, but reading it takes you on a journey you won't soon forget. As in all good books, I learned a lot of things I didn't know before, like the invention of one of the carnival attractions we all take for granted, the economic depression (recession?) of the 1890s, and the Columbia Exposition of 1893 and the men who designed and built it. I also was reminded about the evil and cruelty that one man can inflict on others. Erik has a gift for story-telling that makes this an engaging read.
Sergio Villa

senior sem.
I thought the book was excellently written. It was both suspenseful with the story of the serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes, and informative with the story behind the magnificent Chicago World's Fair. Even though I wasn't alive during that time, the book made it seem like i was right there.

I never knew how massive of an event the 1993 World's Fair was historically, and the implications that made it seem impossible to build. I was panicking just like Daniel Burnham and Frederick Olmsted were when they realized how short of a time they had to build the massive fair. I learned that many common things that we use today were born in the fair, like the shredded wheat.

I have never heard of Dr. H.H. Holmes until i read this book, and was surprised that he was probably Americas first serial killer and he belonged to Chicago. My stomach turned each time I read of the creepy ways he killed women and children, and the building he created specially for killing.

It was sad to know everything that happened after the World's Fair. It was almost as there was no point in living in Chicago anymore.
Lynn

Good vs. Evil
Erik Larson did a great job of weaving two completely different stories together for a fascinating look at the building of the Chicago World's Fair and the first documented American serial killer in the same city at the same time. The history was fascinating and I was constantly on the internet searching for more information and photographs (my only complaint that this book should have had more photographs of the people and events covered). I loved both parts of the story equally which is a great credit to the abilities of this author. I highly recommend this book.
lilac

Title well chosen
As a true crime fan, I picked this up initially as H.H. Holmes is billed as the first serial killer in the US. How could I resist this tease? But as I read, the killings became less important (not to belittle the awful lost of life) and the building of the fair took on a life of it's own. The fair became a character, more than a backdrop for this well told story. I was enthralled by the images and history Erik Larsen shared. This book was a jumping off point for interlibrary loan of many other books dealing with the fair itself. I loved the weaving of Holmes story and the fair. H. H.Holmes certainly was an evil man, handsome, smart, and charismatic like many serial killers. If I met him, I'm positive I would have liked him and that's what is truly scary.

If you can get your hands on the DVD H.H. Holmes: America's first serial killer / Waterfront Productions presents a John Borowski film ; producer, John Borowski ; writer, John Borowski ; director, John Borowski, it's worth a watch.

I had read Isaac's Storm (Larsen) before this for a book discussion in our library. We all agreed we liked the author's writing but didn't care about the people as much as we thought we should in Isaac's Storm. Thunderstruck is on my bookshelf waiting for my the right reading moment. Mr. Larsen is top-notch on my list.
Keri

The Devil In The White City iworks on a number of levels. For the history buff, it sheds some light on an era that is eclipsed in history classes by the America of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the World Wars. Larson's descriptions of the technological and architectural legacies of the Chicago World's Fair alone might not compel the reader to embrace this book.

The author has added delightful human motivation. The colossal egos associated with the men who built "the dream" and, indeed, with the entire populace of Chicago (out to prove that Chicago can rival New York in sophistication and "out-Eiffel Eiffel") make this a wonderful anthropological study of East Coast VS. Midwest sensibility.

On top of that, Larson has thrown in a historical serial killer about whom, unbelievably enough, most of his readers have probably never heard.

Chapter by chapter, Larson weaves these threads beautifully so that the reader sees the connection between Chicago's preoccupation with the Fair and a madman allowed to literally "go to town" unnoticed for the Fair's duration.

"Devil" is a fabulous read and it's well-researched to boot.

JC

Found this book to be very intriguing for the concurrent plots. A thriller-diller on one hand and a seemingly impossible tale of politics and human endeavor on the other. Introduced me to turn-of-century figures that still resonate today. History brought alive. Only disappointment - coming to the end.
Giny

Larson's book is an excellent piece of non-fiction that has several literary qualities. I had to read this book for college credit, and I will admit, I wasn't crazy about it at first. I thought it would be a boring account of architecture in the late 19th century. But, Larson's talent with recreating murder scenes kept me intrigued. If you like books that tell two tales at once, you will enjoy Larson's book.
Rachel

Best book I have EVER read!!!!!!!
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