The Devil in the White City - Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City

By Erik Larson

  • Release Date: 2004-02-10
  • Genre: United States
Score: 4.5
From 705 Ratings


In The Devil in the White City, the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.

Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.

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  • Fave

    By Lizsmc1
    Loved this book
  • Vegan Author cannot focus

    By ybfree
    Allows his obvious vegan preferences to taint his story. Combine that with 5009 details about the world's Fair and what do ya got? The recycle bin. Read two chapters and deleted this forever.
  • Devil in the white city

    By A Smith.
    One of my all time favorites! This book is captivating and thrilling to the end!
  • Not what I expected

    By World's Fair
    There is much more in the story about the World's Fair and architecture than about Holmes. Those parts dragged at times and it was hard to get through the book. Some of it was very interesting but not really my cup of tea. If you are looking for a murder mystery I would keep looking.
  • The Devil in the White City

    By Grand assets en
    What an interesting read. Almost like reading two books, but, at the same time relevant to one another. Gives you perspective as to what the city & life of Chicago was like in the late 1800s and the important developments & innovations that took place. Highly recommend it.
  • More killing, less building

    By You're not me
    Too much about the building of the fair. I was expecting gorier details of the killings.
  • Compelling reading

    I would highly recommend it to a friend. Great read because both stories were thoroughly intriguing and both stories pulled you along. I personally enjoyed all the details. Very well-written.
  • Mind-blowing

    By KBiz13
    I first chose this book two years ago for an AP English Language assignment, thinking it would be an easy read with minimal meanings; something that I could easily write an essay on. I was way in over my head. Of course I was intrigued by the book when I first picked it out, especially since it's based on actual historical events. Never did I expect it to be a hair-gripping thriller that got me glued to every page. The vivid imagery and detail is eye-opening. The characters engulf you into their stories and minds, making you feel every thought, moment, emotion, and sense as if they were your own. The story is gripping and striking, leaving you wanting more and more until there's nothing left.... And you read it all over again. I couldn't keep my eyes or my hands off this book. I definitely suggest this excelling, exciting, fascinating novel, especially to those of you who love to dive into a magical realistic realm - such a paradox! - or a historical-fictional read.
  • Disappointed

    By alacarteblanche
    I bought this book thinking there would be much more time given to H. H. Holmes. This was not the case. I learned more about the Fair, and while it is fascinating, it is not what I signed up for. I also do not like Larson's style of writing. He kept alluding to the future murders, which I found to be unnecessary. We know there will be murder. There were punctuation issues that sometime made the book hard to read. I would not read this book again
  • The Devil in the White City

    By Emmet Aloysius
    Excellent read! EAF