My review of Devil in the White City by Erik Larson:
What a great book!
Devil in the white City is a non-fiction work which follows the paths of two men in the 1890s. The first is Daniel Hudson Burnham, an architect and one of the driving forces behind Chicago’s World’s fair in 1893. The second is Dr. H. H. Holmes, a serial killer operating from 1892 – 1895.
Larson captures the excitement surrounding the fair, the bleakness of the recession and unemployment and the sinister games Holmes used on his victims, all in such vivid detail you’d think you were in the Windy City* right there with the leading men.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this book is that I was more interested in the goings on at the fair than with the murders. I wanted to go to the fair, to see the impossibly large wheel, to taste shredded wheat for the first time (although it’s too bad they had not come up with frosted shredded wheat yet) and I wanted to watch the buildings light up with more electricity than more people had seen in their entire lives.
If you like Chicago, read this book. If you like nonfiction, read this book. If you like crime books, read this book. If you like architectural history, read this book. Basically, you should probably just pick up a copy of this. It will be worth it, I promise.
Larson just came out with a new book set in 1933 Berlin, Germany. (Gush!) I’m just not-so-patiently waiting on the wait list at my library.
*I knew before reading this that the term “Windy City” came about because of boasting and bragging among Chicago’s men and women, not the weather. However, I did not know until reading this book, that the phrase originated from Charles Anderson Dana, an editor from New York who grown tired of Chicago’s big talk. (Larson 14.)