Jude'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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Aug 28, 07

Recommended for: pretty much everyone.
Read in August, 2007

My daily life is filled with non-fiction: facts that are collected to give information quickly and easily to a reader. When I read for enjoyment, I usually gravitate toward fiction.

I didn't realize this book was non-fiction when I bought it. I bought it because it came recommended from Katie, who has good book taste and hasn't steered me down the wrong path yet. When I read the back cover before beginning, I thought: what the hell did I get myself into?

Surprisingly, I found myself immediately hooked. This book is a triumph because Erik Larson researched the hell out of this topic. I know from my daily experience: if you dig hard enough, interesting facts have a way of presenting themselves. It's a joy to witness someone transform the mundane into the engaging. Larson does this.

He pings us back and forth between two men of great ambition - Burnham and Holmes - before, during and after the time of their greatest triumphs. Burnham is the architect of the World's Fair (or World's Columbian Exposition), which has invaded Chicago at the end of the 19th century. Holmes is a con artist with an insatiable thirst to lure innocent young ladies into his den of horrors. He is America's Jack the Ripper without the headlines.

Like many, I was most intrigued by the Holmes chapters. I often found I was "treating" myself by reading the Holmes chapters; the Burnham chapters were a means to that end. A funny thing happened about halfway through, however. I couldn't get enough of the fair; it's descriptions, the maddening timetables, the enormous pressures to "out Eiffel Eiffel" and prove Chicago worthy of what New York coveted.

This is a book for everyone that loves to read. It's for academics - although they may find fault with some of Larson's hypotheses; for serious readers, and for not so serious readers. Don't take my word for it. Take mine and everybody else's.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by kt (new) - rated it 5 stars

kt yey! it's so good.


Marlene Jude..love the profile pic! Must have been on a roller coaster. Made me laugh and that is good.


message 3: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Marie Question: is it a horror? because id like it if it weren't...


Jude Rachel wrote: "Question: is it a horror? because id like it if it weren't..."

Well, it's non-fiction. Since half of the book deals with the crimes of a serial killer, there are certainly some disturbing elements. But a true horror book? No.


message 5: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Marie Thank you!


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