Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book’s categorization to be sure that ‘The Devil in the White City’ is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.
Burnham’s challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair’s incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.
This book was our most recent book club read and makes for most excellent discussion. For nonfiction and fiction fans alike, this is a fascinating page turner. I was blown away by all the history and firsts tied into the Chicago Fair. The details author Erik Larson uncovered are thrilling and impressive. I’m so amazed at how he weaves historic facts into a story that reads like the best kind of thriller novel.
Although the weaving of the two stories – the Fair and H.H. Holmes, serial killer – are not as intertwined as the book jacket leads us to believe, both are incredible stories.
A highly recommended read!
Content note: Some detailed and graphic descriptions of murders