Tracey'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 12, 2007

liked it
Read in November, 2003

Bought Oct 2007

I heard an interview with the author on the Diane Rhem show back in March 2003 & checked to see if the library had the book.

This book follows the development of the 1893 World's Fair and the murderous spree of one of America's first serial killers, Herman Webster Mudgett (aka H.H. Holmes) both occurring in the burgeoning city of Chicago. Larson alternates between the two narratives more or less a chapter at a time. The writing is superb, bringing to life the world at the turn of the century. It is also well-researched, with an extensive Notes and Bibliography section.

I'd read a little about Holmes before, in the graphic novel The Big Book of Bad by Paradox Press. I also knew a little bit about the 1893 World's Fair - that the Ferris wheel had made its debut at the fair, as did shredded wheat and "Little Egypt", the belly dancer What I didn't know was how the Fair very nearly didn't happen, due to political pressure, a financial panic and the whims of the weather. I also learned about the extensive detective work of Frank P. Geyer who started tracking down Holmes based on insurance fraud, not multiple murders, and how the trail at one point led very close to where I currently live!

For anyone with an interest in turn of the century history and/or stories about serial killers - I would recommend reading this book. A minor drawback was the lack of pictures - I would have enjoyed seeing some of the buildings in more detail than the half-dozen or so photos included.
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05/16/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Tes (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:49PM) (new)

Tes If you'd like to see pictures of the buildings or the fair, I think there are a few books out there about the fair with pictures. Check your local library.

message 2: by Tracey (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:49PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tracey Thanks! Since I wrote this review, I also saw a documentary on the 1893 World's Fair, narrated by Gene Wilder that was quite good.

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