Chris'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
Oct 15, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Chris by: Brett Mercier and Mark Ashmun
Recommended for: history buffs, architecture buffs, true crime buffs
Read in October, 2008

This is a fascinating history of the 1893 World's Fair which took place in Chicago. It's a study of Chicago as it charges through the industrial revolution and attempts to re-define itself as a cultural hub. That was a considerable goal, since pollution, corruption, and crime were so rampant in Chicago, at that time. And, of course, the crime is exemplified on a bizarre scale with the construction of a gruesome "castle" of murder and fraud, a gloomy building built just prior to the fair by H. H. Holmes. Man, this guy was nuts! The term diabolical genius actually fits, in his case. His ability to work the insurance system (as well as every one else) and simultaneously satisfy his macabre desires is incredible. The interesting thing is, I found myself wanting to hear more and more about Holmes' dastardly deeds, since the book spends most of its time on the architectural journey of Daniel Burnhnam, who was charged with getting the fair off the ground. This is not to say that the story of preparing the grounds for the fair isn't fascinating, but it cannot compare with the gripping portrayal of the extreme criminal activity of Holmes. This is a very good history. It's incredible that it's true.

I finished last week (last week of Nov. 2008) and it was fantastic. I don't give out 5 stars easily, so this is a solid 4 stars.

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