James'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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M 50x66
's review
Dec 29, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: history
Read from July 23 to August 10, 2012

Devil in the White City wasn't quite as thrilling as I would hope a quasi-murder mystery book would be, but it still found a way to fascinate me, at least for parts. I think if this book had not been marketed to me as a murder story at the time of the world's fair, I would've felt more satisfied reading the book. It's not a murder mystery as much as a story of Daniel Burnham & the World's Fair, during which a serial killer was living in Chicago. The two plots never intertwine closely, and honestly I think the book would've been just as fascinating if Larson had just made it two separate, discrete books.

In fact, I felt disappointed by the end of the Holmes plot because there was never a feeling of building suspense as he came closer and closer to being captured and outed.

That said, the vivid descriptions of the World's Fair were worth the price of the book alone. It truly sounds like nothing else in the world, and I'm almost disappointed that a World's Fair could not capture that kind of attention today.

Not only that, I've got particular appreciation now for a man I'd never previously heard of - Daniel Burnham. Having worked for a short time next to the Flatiron Building, I have always (unknowingly) been a fan of his work, but to hear how he pulled together such a phenomenal undertaking is almost hard to believe.

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