Paul (formerly known as Current)'s Reviews > The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
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's review
Apr 10, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012
Read in April, 2012

Although this work entirely misses the mark in trying to interweave two main story lines--that of the Chicago World's Fair, the White City of the title, and of a serial killer, the Devil of the title--it remains interesting and piques the reader's interest in the history of the fair and in the crime solving that eventually leads to the capture of Holmes. Despite being filled with what seems like no end of interesting facts and people, the prose has difficulty breaking out of a descriptive style and generally does not draw us into the event--does not put us there. More profoundly problematic is the structural problem of presenting two story lines which could be interwoven and blended in ways to compare and contrast the light and darkness--the wealthy and the poor--the desire and the lie of actions but does not take the opportunity to really do so.

What finally is the heart of the city? Is the white city a facade or a wish or a lie the rich tell themselves to present a city built on slaughter as a gentleman? Is the devil the killer or something in the psyche of a city which can fail to protect its people? Larson has excellent building material collected here, but what he builds is far less than what the title of the book promises.

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