***Dave Hill'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
Nov 15, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: audiobook, non-fiction, text
Read in November, 2012 , read count: 1

An amazing book detailing two culture-changing events: the Columbian Exhibition / World's Fair of 1893 in Chicago, and the first sociopathic serial killer widely known in the United States. Even as the "White City" of the fair, through remarkable travails and trials remade America's architectural aesthetic and definition of paradise, H. H. Holmes was preying upon the newcomers to the city, especially the young women who came to find their fortune, or perhaps just some happiness.

There are a lot of times in going through this book that I wished the two tales weren't so intertwined. Both are fascinating stories, albeit for different reasons. The financial, practical, aesthetic, and idealistic challenges of turning the scrub lots of Jackson Park and the south side of Chicago into such a remarkable event are fascinating to read about. Similarly, the sinister activities of Holmes, his Bundy-like charm and ability to boldly lie and glad-hand his way past the defenses of creditors and victims alike, are so interesting and jarring in their own way that switching between the two was consistently disturbing, no matter which way the tale shifted.

An amazing look at the late Victorian "Gilded Age" and the dawn of both mass amusement and media obsession with killers.

Scott Brick does a fine job on the audiobook, his ability to handle the linguistic patterns of the era coupled with a droll cynicism in his voice give the reader insight into both the wonders (and facade) of the fair and the suaveness (and horror) of Holmes' psychopathy. The only drawback to the audiobook is not having any pictures of the titular White City to look at (Google Images is your friend).

Highly recommended.

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