The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Very rarely do I read a book that so completely transports me to an entirely different world. The Devil in the White City is one of these rare cases. Not only is the subject of the book interesting, but the descriptions and the writing style are absolutely beautiful.

This book is about two very different subjects. The first is the construction and running of the 1893 World’s Fair held in Chicago. This is the proverbial “White City”. The main character of this part of the story is famous architect, Daniel H. Burnham. It charts the story of his designing the buildings built at the fair as well as the numerous problems that occurred in their construction and upkeep.  It then goes on to describe the various attractions prepared and preformed at the fair. The second part of the story is about America’s first publicized serial killer, H. H. Holmes. This part of the story charts his life as well as his numerous terrible crimes. Most of his crimes include nefarious murders and numerous other types of fraud. These two stories are told through alternating chapters which helps to keep the story fresh for the reader.

As I said above I am amazed by Mr. Larson’s talent for writing and description. He not only describes a subject beautifully, but he also manages to keep the most boring subject wonderfully interesting for the reader. The reader will be just as engrossed in the parts about the murders as they will be about the placement of trees at the Fair. Let’s be honest, this is no small task and Mr. Larson has done an absolutely outstanding job in writing this book. His descriptions of 1890s Chicago show how much our society and nation have changed over the last 100 years. Its almost feels like you’re reading about an alien planet. Even if mystery books or architecture are not large interests of yours I do believe that anyone can become engrossed in this amazing novel. I highly recommend it!


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