The Devil in the White City

A well-researched and yet captivating look at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Erik Larson has a wonderful voice that crafts a crystal clear vision of this wondrous fair, the obstacles that had to be overcome, and the darker elements at work within and around it. Namely, Larson focuses a great deal of attention on HH Holmes, one of the first true "psychopaths" to receive the designation, who killed at least nine people, many within a building near the fairgrounds during the time of the fair's construction and operation. While Holmes was certainly a creepy and oddly fascinating character, I truly loved every moment spent on Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction. I nearly wept when his friend and business partner, John Root, passed away without being able to see their vision for the fair come to life.
Larson did an excellent job of weaving a great deal of information together to present a coherent storyline, that occasionally dipped off into delightful side-notes. How could he not when the cast of characters included Buffalo Bill, Frank Lloyd Wright, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla, etc. But what made it come to life was the attention to small details -- not obsessive, mind you, but just right. Perfect selections from written letters and charming anecdotes.

The Devil in the White City has been recommended to me by a very wide range of people, and then my friend and I randomly both purchased it on the same day, entirely unaware of the other's choice. Once I started reading it, though, I couldn't wait for him to do the same, and I simply dove into it. I definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in the Chicago World's Fair... or who is simply interested in being swept away by someone else's fascination. I feel like Larson brought us along for the ride and I'm quite glad that he did.

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