Monday, July 6, 2009

The Devil in The White City by Erik Larson

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 Stars!

Description: 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 Cityis 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, 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.

I really struggled with this book in the beginning.  I found the parts about the building of the World Fair in Chicago boring.  The magnitude of the project was completely overwhelming but the descriptions did not make me feel connected to the project.  I did like the parts describing H.H. Holmes and the building of his "castle" interesting.   I wish we knew more about the man.  But, how can you when everything he wrote about himself was a careful mix of truth and lie, and the horror of what he was doing almost went completely unnoticed.   How can a man be murdering people for years and what gets him caught is insurance fraud?  Shows what the atmosphere during the World Fair was like, people can go missing, be connected to the same hotel/man and no one connects the dots.   I did like the story involving when the fair was actually open.   Sounds like something I would have loved to have seen.  Sad that pretty much the whole thing burned down in the end.  But, what do you do with something that was built for one purpose only?   Overall I liked the book. 

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