Thursday, September 29, 2011

REVIEW: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Title: Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
book cover of Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonAuthor: Erik Larson
Date Published:  February 2003
Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
Page Count:  447 pages
Challenge: E-Book Challenge, Book Club Book
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis:  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.
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.

My Thoughts:  I'm really not a fan of nonfiction.  There have been a few that I've read and enjoyed and this was one of them.
This really does read more like a work of fiction, which was one thing that I really liked about it.  Larson combines the historical backdrop of the building of the World Fair and the horrific deeds that Holmes committed, making it very interesting.
I'll be honest, I would have rather skipped through the chapters that talked about the construction of the world fair.  There was a lot of that content that I felt that I could have done without.  There were some very interesting facts sprinkled through these chapters though, so that made it worth reading.

Of course, the most interesting part of the book was about Holmes.  It felt like I was reading a fiction book, and sometimes I would have to take a minute to just reflect on the fact that this man did live and he did do all of these horrible things and that was pretty mind boggling for me.  But it was so interesting to read it.  That was the part that I really loved.

Overall, it was a good book.  I came away from it having learned new things and having been entertained by the story of Dr. H. H. Holmes.  I'm glad that we chose this as our first book club book. I give it a 3 out of 5 stars!

Recommended for:  Anyone that enjoys nonfiction, history, or information of serial killers.
Think you might want to give this book a try? Read other reviews or order from  Devil in the White City

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