Download The Devil in the White City Online by Erik Larson
Click Here to Download the Book I had heard good things about this book, which looks at the history of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and a serial killer who preyed on Chicago's young women at the time. It is every bit as fantastic as the reviews. I expected to find the serial killer part interesting, but I had no idea how fascinating Larson would be able to make the history of building the fairgrounds. It's a testament to his writing that he is able to make the story suspenseful even though we know the outcome--the Fair occurred and went well, the killer was caught (which we presume b/c he mentions trial transcripts early on). H.H. Holmes, the serial killer, was, from what I can tell, a pure psychopath--a person who has absolutely no empathy for others, no respect for the law or social norms, and who finds murder sexually arousing. His crimes aren't crimes of passion; he goes into great detail setting up a place to be able to kill women at his leisure. And because he's attractive and charming, women flock to him, making his job so much easier. The history of the World's Fair is an account of one of those patriotic turn-ofthe-century "We'll show what America can do!" endeavors that was nearly foiled at every turn (storms, lack of funds, etc.) but that, of course, works out in the end. It seems like nearly every man who would become a prominent figure in the next 40 years was in some way involved, and it's amazing what many of them were able to do on their first try, like build a gigantic Ferris wheel, a ride designed especially for the fair that had never been tried before and carried a high risk of failure and catastrophe. Truly one of the most fascinating books I've read in a couple of years.
Reviews The Devil in the White City is a fascinating look at the people, events, causes, and effects of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. The book is nonfiction, but it reads like a novel. I was riveted to the audiobook version (read by Scott Brick) and found myself utilizing every moment in the car and at home that I could to listen to it. The two primary figures in the book--Daniel H. Burnham and Dr. Henry H. Holmes--could not be more different. Their parallel stories, however, work well in opposition to one another. Burnham was the architect at the helm of the World's Fair, and Holmes was the serial killer who used the fair crowd as a mine for victims. Larson flips back and forth between their histories and worlds, which is somehow never jarring (although many of the accounts of Holmes' actions are truly chilling). Instead, Larson manages to create a layered history of the exposition, growing urbanization, and American culture of the 1890s. Ultimately, The Devil in the White City showcases what the human mind and spirit is capable of achieving--with both magical and tragic results.
This book followed the parallel events of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (or "Columbian Exposition" as it was called) with the serial-murders that nobody knew were happening at the same time. While Daniel Burnham was trying to get the fair built in time for the grand opening and dealing with officials, architects and a picky landscape artist, Dr. H. H. Holmes was quietly using the Fair as a means of exploiting and killing dozens of women and sometimes their children too. Despite the author's stilted and sometimes awkward writing, Larson still managed to fill my imagination with vivid images of the fair and its denizens; a cast of characters and walk-ins that will surprise and delight you. I love the story of the contraption that was built to "out-Eiffel the Eiffel tower" and the fun things and events that now seem commonplace to us but made their first showing at the fair. I will remember these novelties forever as wonderful slice-of-life stories of the late-19th century. The book seemed to unravel at the end as the author tries to wrap up all the loose ends that happen after the fair ends. Somehow, this part of the story lost its steam and it seemed like he was running out of pages to craft his story. Despite my disappointment, I was still enchanted with this book and will eagerly read it again so I can re-experience each revelation and glean more nuggets about the lives of the men who changed the world.
When I got this book, I was under the impression it was a work of fiction. I obviously hadn't read the summaries for the book very well; the author states very clearly in his forward that this is a true story.
I was expecting more crime in this book. What I got instead was a wonderful account of 1890's Chicago, and it's fight for the design and building of the World's Columbian Exposition. The only relics left standing from this wonderful World's Fair is the current Museum of Science & Industry (the fair's Palace of Fine Arts) and the Wooded Island. It is amazing what these great architects were able to pull together in such a short time period at Jackson Park. One of the biggest challenges they faced was how to "Out-Eiffel Eiffel," who had designed and built the Eiffel tower for Paris's world's fair just a few years before. The solution came to me as a surprise, because now this phenomenon is a common attraction. Interlaced with the story of the Exposition is one of serial killer H. H. Holmes. Really the only connection between the two is simply that Holmes happened to live in a close proximity to Jackson Park, bringing him a steady stream of innocent young women to prey on. If Larson had not expressed in his forward that this was a true story, I would have thought Holmes to be a made up character. If this would have just been about Holmes, I probably wouldn't have given it five stars. But the two together made a great read. The advances and influences made from the fair were astounding and I really enjoyed learning about the creation of the White City.
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