Friday, March 1, 2013

The Devil In The White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
Today’s non-fiction review is on “The Devil In The White City” by Erik Larson. It is 447 pages long including notes, index, and credits. The cover has a picture of the white city from across a lake. The intended reader is anyone who likes history and who wants to know more about the first known serial killer in America. There is talk of sex, there is language, drinking, murder, and some talk of the torture that Holmes did to his victims; you are warned. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.
Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

Review- This book is wonderful and so interesting. The writing is strong, the pacing is a little slow at the start but then it just goes. Larson is putting together all the different threads that made both the World’s Fair and Holmes’s murders. It is told in four parts with separate chapters following Burnham and Company building the fair to Holmes as he moves and hunts. Larson has it full of notes, dairy entries, newspaper stories. I want to learn more about this time and the people that I have meet because of this book. It would be easy for the reader to be overwhelmed with all the information given to us over the book but Larson does not do that. He gives it to us in small, manageable doses, with reminders of who people are as the book moves along. The subject matter is strong so if you are not into murders or serial killers do not read this. Holmes is the first serial killer that is known so the notes from different people about him are little unnerving but I think that Larson handles this well and I did not feel overwhelmed by the accounts.

I give this one Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and this was given to me as a gift.