The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonA work of non-fiction which contrasts the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 with the true story of a serial killer who used the frantic and often chaotic activity of the time to hide his movements. Dr. H.H. Holmes was able to finance the construction and staffing of a vast commercial building and lodging house with secret passageways and vaults in which he tortured and killed his victims. Young women entering Chicago to find work at the Fair, often away from their country villages for the first time, were easily duped by the charismatic Holmes. His victims seemed to vanish into the bustling metropolis, while Holmes pleaded ignorance to their concerned families. At the same time, the book chronicles the fascinating trials and triumphs of the “white city” which was created for the World’s Fair on inhospitable swampland in less than two years, and describes the marvellous sights and sounds of the Fair itself.

What the Armchair Critics Thought:
This is an incredibly detailed and well researched book. At times the reader feels overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of facts and figures it contains. The contrast between the story of Holmes and the Fair is quite interesting although the device of switching between the two topics after each chapter could be frustrating for those looking for a coherent narrative. The amazing little tidbits of information about the Fair and its organization made for fascinating reading. We all wished there had been more photographs of the Fair and the White City included in the book.

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