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Devil in the White City

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Emma Mcclellan Bringing thousands of people into one dirty city for an illusion of world majesty perfectly set up one of America’s most prolific serial killers. Eric Larson’s captivating story, The Devil in the White City, reinvented how nonfiction can be read. At parts it seemed like I was reading a fiction book! This history follows two enthralling yet utterly different story lines during the time of the 1893 Chicago World Fair. One follows the building of the World Fair by a famous architect and the other captures the story of the infamous serial killer who hunted in the shadows.
Daniel Hudson Burnham managed to plan, create, and build a World Fair for thousands of people all within a two year time frame. Burnham’s motivation and passion for the success of the fair was elevated in Larson’s writing. Although his story line was more difficult to read solely because of the amount of detail Larson poured into this book, I still wanted to give Burnham a hug for all the hard work he poured into the fair.
H. H. Holmes fed off the chaos and disorder of the fair to lure numerous young women to their doom. However evil and twisted Holmes was, he was equally as charming. Holmes constructed his own fully equipped murder house by relying on his unpaid debt and charm. It was equipped with secret tunnels, a gas chamber, and its own kiln to dispose of the bodies he threw down to the basement. The story of Holmes was so interesting I almost wish it was a completely separate book, although I do understand why the two stories were written together. Holmes could not have been as “successful” of a serial killer had the World Fair not taken place. It provided the chaos and distraction necessary for him to continue without being caught.
In a world full of boring, drawn out nonfiction, The Devil in the White City, was able to captivate and inform me about the history of the Chicago World Fair and the murderous man who lurked in the shadows. This book puts a strong emphasis on detail, death, and despair. It kept me on my toes when I was reading about the serial killer. However, the parts about architecture was dry for me. It was a detailed, well written account of an extraordinary series of events, but sometimes challenging for me to digest. Because of this, I would give this book three out of five stars.

Helen Durfee I agree with you Emma. Do you suppose the author might have wanted to write about the worlds fair, but wanted to catch more readership so added a serial killer? I don't fault this idea for a book, but I do fault the blatant unequal time spent developing each. The fair got to much, the serial killer not enough, (and the serial killer was the more enticing part. )

Phillip Goodrich This is an Eric Larson "shtick": taking two apparently unrelated stories occurring side-by-side in history, and finding the ties that bind them together. Once you understand this approach, the story takes on a suspense of its own: alternating chapters, seemingly totally unrelated, will culminate in a climax that ties the two together into a neat splice. I find it a frankly enchanting approach, and have to respect his ability to provide this type of narrative.

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