• Book

Devil in the white city : murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America

by Larson, Erik., 1954-

There are no copies available and 3 requests on 10 copies

Where To Find It

Call number: 364.152 La

Additional Details

Evils imminent -- Prologue, aboard the Olympic (1912) -- Frozen music (Chicago, 1890-1891) -- An awful fight -- In the white city -- Cruelty revealed (1894-5) Property of H.H. Holmes -- Epilogue, the last crossing.

Community Reviews

narrative history

Devil in the White City is a nonfiction narrative history, providing an account of the planning process for the Columbian Exposition interspersed with the story of a murderer. The two story lines complement each other surprisingly well. The book is dramatic and riveting, and it is interesting to learn of the sheer number of famous people and new inventions that were part of the Exposition. It's a quick and fascinating read.

Switching chapters

I really liked the way one chapter described the building of the fair and the next described H.H. Holmes. It kept me interested.

I don't understand the love this book gets.

Didn't finish it. 2/3 through I ran out of time on my library copy and didn't like it enough to get back in the queue.

How do you take a story about an actual serial killer who constructed an actual murder castle--complete with secret passages and rooms and chutes--and make it BORING?

The Chicago World's Fair stuff was more interesting by far than the H.H. Holmes chapters. But the lists and menus he included made it feel like he was stuffing a term paper to get it up to the minimum required page count.

Larson apparently tried to take a historical narrative and spice it up by talking about how people felt or what they thought, and to me it often didn't ring true. I think I'd have enjoyed this immensely if the author had picked a style--biography/historical account or novelization--and stuck with it.

Great Popular History

Writers of history often succumb to many evils of the genre, and despite his own missteps I think Erik Larson has created a truly wonderful book that will be accessible to both serious and casual students of history. His major fault is in alluding to upcoming events or revelations and then changing course entirely, but this can be forgiven for his lucid explanations and novelist's ability to weave a compelling narrative. That he does this through chapters alternating between the point of view of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition's chief architect and a prolific serial killer (who attended Ann Arbor's own UM back in the day) is particularly impressive. Larson has a gift for interweaving contextual background information into the main narrative and avoids a prolonged scene-setting introduction, instead illuminating 1890s Chicago throughout the story. Some scenes involving murderer H. H. Holmes may be disturbing to some readers, but "The Devil in the White City" is an excellent choice for those interested in Chicago history, the World's Fair, or who just want a gripping true crime story. Highly recommended.

History buffs celebrate

This is truly an eye opener about a fascinating time in our history, in particular the Midwest and it's influence... Next time I'm in Chigago I will be visiting some new/old sites.

Fear and fascination

Combines the gaity of a pivotal World's Fair with the horror of a lurking serial murderer. A bit disappointing for the lack of conclusive evidence. But a page-turner nonetheless. Toronto makes a cameo appearance.

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