Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Magnificence and Murder at the 1893 World’s Fair (Murder, He Wrote Week)

Another book about a murderer I enjoyed was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It’s really two stories in one, based on actual events.  One plot follows architect, Daniel H. Burnham, of the 1893 World’s Fair (aka World’s Columbian Exposition) in Chicago.  The other narrative details the first recorded American serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes.  The planning and execution (forgive the pun) of the World’s Fair was absolutely amazing.  The fair covered about 600 acres with approximately 200 new buildings erected in a very short amount of time—all for six months of entertainment that over 27 million people attended!  It’s so sad that the remarkable buildings were intended to be temporary and no longer exist. While Burnham was busy planning something extraordinarily magnificent, H.H. Holmes, whose real name is Herman Webster Mudgett, planned something extraordinarily horrifying.  He too, constructed a remarkable building, but for other reasons.  The hotel he contracted to be built was remarkable in the fact that he somehow slipped in a gas chamber.  His house of horrors drew in beautiful women attending the World’s Fair.  But it was more like the Hotel California.  You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.  Holmes was one sick pup. 

Some women in my book club weren’t too thrilled to be reading about the exploits of a true killer, nor were they always as enthused about the abundance of detailed information about the construction of the World’s Fair.  In the end, though, most like the book. At the very least, it was eye-opening.  I truly enjoyed not only the stories, but also the author’s writing style and give it two thumbs-up—one for the architect’s story, one for the murderer’s story.

Happy Reading,

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1 comment:

  1. I found this book extremely fascinating! It's not just a good read, it's one of those books you truly remember. I love the description of the World Fair and the architecture but also found Herman Mudgett's story disturbing yet interesting. I also give this book 2 thumbs up!