The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson Book Review

Book Description (via Goodreads): 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 City’ is 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.

Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson’s skillful writing. – John Moe

I have given The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson two out of five stars ⭐️⭐️

A dark and devious book filled with architecture and killings. A mixture of two I never thought I would read in the same book.

This book started off quite strong for me; learning about an architect called Daniel H. Burnham and a serial killer called H.H. Holmes. I find non-fiction books fascinating especially when based around true crime events, although that meant that there were a lot of brutal attacks that happened to a lot of people.

I found this book started to repeat itself quite a lot, especially during the chapters that surround Daniel Burnham and the architecture of the Chicago World Fair. I appreciated that the information was important and relevant however, due to the repeated information I started to become quite bored of Daniel Burnham’s story.

As I became less intrigued by this book, I ended up reading this book for a fair few weeks which dragged out the experience. I had hoped there was more information regarding H.H. Holmes rather than Daniel Burnham.

Have you read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson? If so, did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading,

Claire 📚

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