Review: The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City

Erik Larson

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I have a terrible imagination, and I’m pretty bad at picturing past events in my mind.  Maybe that’s why Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City was such a great read for me.  He accomplished 2 impressive feats in my mind:
1. He got me interested in a fair…that took place 100 years ago.
2. He took two seemingly unrelated events and wove them together in a perfectly harmonious story.

The Devil in the White City is the story of Chicago’s turn of the century World’s Fair and the story of serial killer H.H. Holmes.  The way Larson told the story of the Fair- how it came together, what it looked like, and the affect it had on the world- completely brought it to life for me.  I could image the whole process in detail, and for a simple mind like mine, that’s quite the accomplishment.

While the story of the Fair is interesting, the story of Holmes is downright gripping.  Getting into the mind of a serial killer and watching his story unfold is at once thrilling and appalling.  Maybe Larson’s real accomplishment is telling Holmes’ story without making my skin crawl.

Each storyline is great on its own, but the way Larson interweaves the two stories together is what makes the book special.  This is one of my favorite books of the last decade, suitable for both history buffs and men who just want a good read.

Quick paced, easy to read, and a serial killer?  Its doesn’t get much more manly than this.

About zach

Staring out across the hazy mountain range on his latest summitting of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Zach saw with a clearness he had not yet seen. "People should tremble at the very sound of my name", he thought. And it was so. "I should master the manly arts of the world, such as barehanded hunting and blacksmithing". And it was so. "People should call me Z$". And it was so.

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  1. brian burchfield says:

    I read this book expecting a great tale of murder, intrigue, and shocking revelations about these characters at a very different time in history. I think the most shocking part of the book came at the end when the author discusses the sources he relied on while writing the book, my shock came in the form of: “WOW! I’m shocked that someone wrote a more boring book than this one.”

    Nevertheless, I’m glad I stuck it out and agree that Larson’s wove some pretty disparate story lines together to truly paint a picture of America in the late 1800’s. A pretty interesting time that would have been crazy to live through truly came to life through these pages.

    • You’re the first person I’ve heard that didn’t love the book. I definitely agree that it wasn’t a thriller. But I certainly wouldn’t call it boring. I thought it was one of the more unique books I’ve read lately.

      …And I learned. So what more could you want?

      If you’re looking for murder, intrigue, and shocking revelations I’d definitely recommend Shadow of the Wind. Might fit what you’re looking for a little more.

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