Chicago’s World Fair

Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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devil in the white cityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

Written by Erik Larson 
Read by Scott Brick
Published  October 17, 2002 by Vintage 
Audio Format: Published October 17, 2002 by Random House Audio 
Genre/Subject: Nonfiction, History, Crime, Chicago’s World Fair
464 pages, 15 hours

Three Word Review: Creepy, Intriguing, Informative

I’ll start by providing a warning that The Devil in the White City is not a children’s book. Erik Larson writes basically two ‘books’ into one book. Larson states right from the beginning that the book is not fiction and any quotations are from research sources. The magic is that it’s a nonfiction history book that reads like fiction. The first ‘book’ is about the formation of the World’s Columbian Exposition or better known as the Chicago’s World Fair. The second ‘book’ is about a serial killer’s actions during the same time as the fair in Chicago. The focus switches between two men: Daniel Hudson Burnham an architect whose ideas helped create the fair and Henry H. Holmes a young doctor and murderer. The Chicago’s World Fair at first didn’t seem possible with the grand ideas and buildings that needed to be built. Individuals knew it had to be better than Paris’ recent exposition and a design grander than the Eiffel Tower. The Chicago’s World Fair brought new items and ideas that fascinated individuals. One trip into the fair wasn’t enough to experience it all. At the same time, Holmes charms individuals, mainly young women, to do whatever he pleases.

This isn’t a book that I would normally pick up, instead it was read for my book club. Personally, I enjoyed learning more about the Chicago’s World Fair and the history during this time period than the murders planned by Holmes. Don’t let the murders scare you away, because it really never goes into details. Instead, the book examines his relationships and how he charmed anyone. If you enjoy history, architecture,  and a brief look into the mind of a serial killer than you may enjoy this unique nonfiction book.