Read The Devil in the White City PDF 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 One of those books I couldn't put down because the rich and famous don't just appear, they are woven into the tapestry of the narrative and the events related herein to them are both meaningful and compelling. Some of the many contributors to this pocket history include Harriet Monroe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Clarence Darrow, Buffalo Bill Cody and Helen Keller. The book evokes a Paul Harvey "The rest of the story" feel in a number of these factual accounts and the sinister undercurrent evoked through the pyschopathic actions and consequences of the serial killer who haunts the grounds, casting long shadows among the brilliance of the scenery. The challenges, struggles, triumphs and tragedies of the 1893 Chicago Coluumbian Exposition are numerous and appear to be nearly unparalleled in the modern age. The many struggles produce ground-breaking discoveries and mold the character of a new generation of shakers and movers. Numerous products that we all use and instantly recognize were first introduced to the public at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. No book that I have read in the past decade has been more mesmerizing and I believe it be one of those few books that will help to set a gold standard for non-fictional history for many years to come.
If you think you don't like nonfiction, then you haven't read "The Devil in the White City." It's hard to imagine that a book about the World's Fair in Chicago, known as the Columbian Exposition in 1893 could be a page-turner, but this one is. The book weaves together the story of the Exposition with that of a serial killer who killed hundreds of young women during the time of the Fair. All of it is based on original sources. Larson looked at the actual paper on which the assassin of Chicago's mayor at the time wrote a note expressing his delusions, and saw how hard were the indentations on the paper from his pencil. He uses trial transcripts, as well as other primary sources for his material. In all fairness, Larson does some imaginative recreation of dialogue, but he does it so skillfully and seamlessly that it works. This is a book that everyone will enjoy. You got your history, you got your mystery, you got your romance, you got your heartbreak. What more could any reader want?
This book combines the architectural genius of The Fountainhead with the sociopathic and murderous obsession of Perfume. It was fantastic. I felt proud to be an American when reading about the amazing feat of pulling together the Fair. I also felt a mix of revulsion, pity, and fascination when reading about the murderous Holmes and his meticulous murders. The book may come off a bit dry in sections when rambling on about names and dates and things, but I had no problem with putting people in the right place at the right time. I was also overjoyed when the prologue mentioned that anything in quotes was an actual quote from some letter or other documented correspondence. That dedication by the author to dig up actual quotes made the book feel that much more real and historically accurate. This is a great book that I highly recommend. In fact, I just bought a copy as a birthday gift.
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