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The Devil in the White City
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message 1: by Jenn (last edited Jul 18, 2016 04:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenn | 223 comments Mod
Julie's pick for August is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Discuss here!


Julie Place | 87 comments overall I thought this was a very good book! for it being based on true stories it flowed and kept me very interested until the end I wasn't ready for it to end . It also got me interested in the characters enough to do some more reading on them after I finished the book.

now to the book, the beginning for me was pretty slow. it was very descriptive which helped me picture everything that was happening so that was good. I didn't realize there would be such a long discussion about where to have the fair or how to do it. once those decisions were done the book really picked up. its crazy to me that all this happened and it was true. Such as Frank Millet who helped with the fair also ended up on the Titanic!

There seemed to be a lot problems with getting the fair up and going with getting good workers, what buildings there needed to be and where to put them, money, and the weather. But they didn't have the technology we have now that I'm sure made everything that much more difficult. the safety for workers wasn't a priority that it is now. The weather didn't surprise me at all I live in the midwest and the weather can be crazy! Just the descriptions of everything they had there was so awesome I can't even begin to imagine how awesome it would have been to be a part of it! I mean to be where the Ferris Wheel was first introduced and the future of electricity was decided. and the people that would have traveled to be there, what an event! so that was the fun, good, fantastic part of the book..

now for the dark unthinkable part.. Dr. H.H. Holmes what can I even say or where to begin? He was a very very smart manipulative man. how did he use and fool so many people? didn't anyone suspect him of anything before he was caught? and I just keep thinking (and I know this is a horrible thought) but were women so trusting and naive back then? and I know it wasn't their fault but how did he get so close to so many women and just kill them?!?! my gut feeling is that he would just scream CREEP to me! but I don't trust anyone...
I get frustrated thinking about how the Dr. could've been caught for all the other illegal things he did like the theft and insurance fraud. He should've been jailed before he got the opportunity to do what he did during the worlds fair! and yet he somehow found enough money and shady people to help him build his torture hotel! how did no one know about the gas chamber, dissection table, or the crematorium? and how was it ok for people to be buying skeletons? how was it not a question how this man acquired these skeletons? and he got paid for the murders basically how gross! other questions this man had me asking was what happened to his wives? the book made it sound like he married them and stuck them away somewhere and that was that? weren't they even suspicious of him? I don't understand how someone could be so evil to murder so many and just kinda make it feel like it was something he had to do. Towards the end of the book why did he have to kill children? but more importantly what kind of mother would let her children go with a man without her? so many questions and deaths that should not have happened.

so obviously the behaviors of a serial killer brought up a lot of questions for me. for some reason serial killers have always fascinated me so his part of the book really kept me interested. This book is not a book I would have picked up myself but it was recommend to me by a friend and I'm glad it was! and hey it's another book that is being adapted into a movie with Leonardo Dicaprio playing the EVIL Dr. H.H. Holmes!


Wendopolis | 77 comments I read this book some time ago and enjoyed it. My only criticism would be that the title leads the reader to believe that the focus of the book is the serial killer, but in fave HH Holmes is almost an afterthought.
Which, after paging through a book solely about this sick man, is not such a bad thing! No more details of his sick behavior is needed.


message 4: by Mel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mel | 47 comments Mod
Rating: 5 stars
Summary: Larson deserves awards.

The only negative I experienced was when I put the book down for a spell. When I started reading again, it was difficult to get into it. I'm not sure why; however, I corrected it. Obviously.

Despite being one of the larger books I've read for this book club, I haven't much to say. The 5 stars were well deserved, not just for the hours of research and writing work Larson undoubtedly put in to make this masterpiece, but because of the enjoyment I received while reading 'The Devil in the White City'.

When I reached the end, I was sad. No more White City. It was destroyed, like so many wonderful things are. They didn't appreciate the magnitude, oddly enough, of what they created in structure as well as socially. I wonder if they saw the thumbprint they left on American culture if they would understand the profound sense of loss I feel when I see those pictures.

As many good, useful things that came from the fair, some bad did as well.

Burnham and his colleagues weren't exactly peaches. They used and abused workers to get their visions completed. They squabbled like children, even having tantrums. They were emotionally available to one another in such a way that seems odd today. It was interesting to see how many lives well known or not intersected because of the World's Fair.

Strange, it's more than 120 years later and we're still inspired by their deeds. In those days, all you needed was money, because we hadn't yet figured out how to make red-tape adhere to people's dreams. Nothing created then could be created now. The cost, the cynicism, the lack of civic pride.

Where there's pride, there is a fall.

It's annoying to me that we don't know how many people Holmes killed. Part of my irritation is that I know that if that sick bastard were alive he'd be pleased I was annoyed. Then, and for so many reasons, he'd have to be killed again and brutally. :-) Kind of funny how worried he was that his body would be mutilated the way he'd mutilated others. Proof that we are, to some extent, what we fear the most.

So many cities, so many devils.


message 5: by Jenn (last edited Aug 27, 2016 06:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenn | 223 comments Mod
I'm about a half way through this book and love it so far. I'm going to try to power through the rest of it today if I can find it. I keep losing my copy for some reason.


message 6: by Mel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mel | 47 comments Mod
In an infinitesimal way, Holmes having a painful death satisfies me.

And yet...

Why do I want to crack open his cement coffin and smack his corpse across the face?


message 7: by Mel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mel | 47 comments Mod
Power on, Jenn!


Jess James | 22 comments This book was a great read. I powered through it on audiobook in a matter of 2.5 days, and I couldn't put it down, so to speak. I will admit that after pages and pages (and pages) of description of how daunting and bleak the building of the World's Fair was, I almost felt that I had been there myself, slogging through the drudgery of the work.

But Holmes, man.

I *loved* the parts of this book having to do with Holmes. He, like most serial killers, was chillingly fascinating. I couldn't help but be reminded throughout the telling of his days of the fact that, when your little internal alarm goes off, when something doesn't feel *quite* right, you need to listen to it.

I feel like there could have been about half as much description about the fair and its woes, but otherwise, this book was a delight to read. Thanks for recommending it, Julie!


message 9: by Jenn (last edited Sep 01, 2016 08:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenn | 223 comments Mod
I'm sad to say I didn't finish this book by August 31st, due to being crazy, crazy busy. My husband and I have started a business, and while it's doing really well, it also leaves me with next to no time for things like reading. I'm also about to have my third child in early October. I'm not sure I can continue leading this group by myself. Would anyone like to co-moderate?

My thoughts on Devil the White City, as of half-way through the book:

Overall, it's fantastic. I agree with Jess about the world's fair sections getting a little cumbersome to read. I also love the Holmes sections. It annoys me that those sections are short compared with the world's fair parts.

Olmsted, so far, is my favorite "character." He's your typical tortured artist who MUST have things done his way. I love reading about artistic projects that require multiple artists to work together. It's like watching a train wreck. I can't wait to see how all of this is going to come together, because, where I'm at in the book, it seems like the construction of the world's fair can end in nothing but horrible, embarrassing failure (I'm pretending like I don't know the ending).

I'm continually impressed by the level of detail in Devil. I knew there was a lot of literature about the Chicago world's fair, but damn. I mean, how the city packed water hydrants with steaming horse manure in winter to keep the water from freezing? How much research must Erik Larson have done to find all of this out? It's really kind of amazing.

I find it interesting that Holmes is so frequently described as handsome and irresistible to women. I looked up pictures of him and he doesn't look handsome to me, at all. He looks empty. Not soulless empty, but brainless empty. It's hard for me to match that face with the extremely intelligent and devious Holmes presented in this book.

I've seen a few people in here mention that Holmes would trigger their creep alarms if they ever met him. Based on the pictures I've seen, I think that if I ever encountered him, I would, like all of his hapless victims, probably conclude that he was safe.

I'm looking forward to finishing the book. I'll post my thoughts on the rest of it.

Also looking forward to the movie.


Wendopolis | 77 comments Holmes did have a pretty epic mustache, though.


message 11: by Jenn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenn | 223 comments Mod
That he did.


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