This book has been on my nightstand for five years. Finally, running out the door to catch a plane, I grabbed it. What took me so long? I read it straight through the plane ride, barely stopping to put on my safety belt. The Devil in the White City is a historical account of the building of the 1853 Chicago World’s Fair. This is a story about architecture, engineering, the success, and failure of the World’s Fair, the plight of a second tier city during a depression, and a serial killer who prays upon the visitors to the city and fair. Each chapter delivers a cliff hanger at its end, which reads like a mystery novel.— Cindy
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The true tale of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death.
“Relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel .... It doesn’t hurt that this truth is stranger than fiction.” —The New York Times
Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.
Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.
The Devil in the White City draws the reader into the enchantment of the Guilded Age, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.
About the Author
ERIK LARSON is the author of four national bestsellers: In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm, which have collectively sold more than 5.5 million copies. His magazine stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and other publications and his books have been published in fourteen countries.
“Engrossing . . . exceedingly well documented . . . utterly fascinating.” — Chicago Tribune
“A dynamic, enveloping book. . . . Relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel. . . . It doesn’t hurt that this truth is stranger than fiction.” — The New York Times
"So good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already." — Esquire
“Another successful exploration of American history. . . . Larson skillfully balances the grisly details with the far-reaching implications of the World’s Fair.” — USA Today
“As absorbing a piece of popular history as one will ever hope to find.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Paints a dazzling picture of the Gilded Age and prefigure the American century to come.” — Entertainment Weekly
“A wonderfully unexpected book. . . Larson is a historian . . . with a novelist’s soul.” — Chicago Sun-Times