What I enjoyed most about this nonfiction read was Larson's ability to have you believe you were reading a mystery thriller as opposed to reading a documented historical account. His writing style lends towards a narrative voice, which makes this book that much more powerful. There may be historian purists and academics who disagree with Larson's choice of explaining the motives and thoughts of Holmes, but it all fit perfectly within the context of the information presented.
The victim's motivations, Holmes, and Burnham are all fleshed out with page after page of research. Larson also has a genuine talent for timing and pacing as he adds in direct quotes and excerpts from documents to continue with the story that is being told.
Without Burnham's World Fair, the setting and circumstances would not have made it possible for Holmes to commit the crimes that he did. Although the two men never met their actions affected one another. It's hard not to be struck by the coincidences that are presented in this book. Now whether, that was Larson's intention, I am not certain, but it does add to the book's charm.
Larson is adept at balancing fact with riveting story telling. You are made privy to several characters and each person that is brought into this book has a part to play. There are no loose ends and if there is ever any discrepancy with the historical fact, it is noted along with the various other possibilities that some historians love to conjecture about during their free time.
This is such an amazing account, that I found myself several times having to edit out "novel" and "fiction" from the review. What Larson does best is defy that notion that historical nonfiction must be dry and unappealing. If there was anyone who hates nonfiction because of the density and bland language involved, I'd recommend this book to them in a heartbeat. This is the book for the historical buff and the reader who stays away from the nonfiction aisle.
It's compelling, fascinating, and most important of all it has the ability to appeal to a wide range of readers.