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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America


The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America Cover


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Average customer rating based on 30 comments:

BjoLiz, February 25, 2014 (view all comments by BjoLiz)
Having read this book several years ago, I got so much more out of it this time around.  On the first reading, I was absorbed in The Devil and the horrors he inflicted with zero regard for anyone but himself, a true sociopath.  In my 2nd reading, The White City captured my imagination.  What those architects, landscape artists and construction workers accomplished in so short a time was nothing short of miraculous.  I doubt it could be repeated today even with all our modern machinery and technology.  

Now, a brief word about Holmes and his despicable acts.  Although tragic, his significance was of being the first US serial killer.  Not a cherished goal for most of society,  yet I think he eagerly sought that place in history.   His powers of deception were amazing.  His killings and subsequent disposals were simple as well as elaborate.  His heart and mind were certainly of the devil.

Overall, this was a fascinating read.  Just when the tedium of the building of the White City and all the setbacks became overpowering, Larson jolted my interest back with Holmes and his myriad of atrocities.  It is a thoroughly researched and well written book surrounding a brief monumental and significant time in our history.
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BakerB, January 14, 2013 (view all comments by BakerB)
Very interesting read. Full of fascinating history, details of the World's Fair, & Chicago in its heyday, & chilling murder & mystery. Great combo!
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Waney, December 29, 2012 (view all comments by Waney)
I strongly recommend THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY to anyone who enjoys an engrossing, well-written story, whether they normally read fiction or nonfiction. In particular, if readers have a book report in school, this book should be considered. It makes history come alive.
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Maggie_S, November 13, 2012 (view all comments by Maggie_S)
A wonderful well researched novel following two seperate events that took place in Chicago in the last years of the 19th century, a serial killer on the loose and the Chicago World's Fair. Very well executed and as accurate as I could find.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Sofi, August 31, 2012 (view all comments by Sofi)
I first heard about this on the "Stuff You Missed in History Class" podcast - and the book did not disappoint! The story of the World's Fair would have been compelling on its own - combined with the bizarre life of H.H. Holmes, it was hard to put down. A fascinating episode in America's history!!
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Product Details

Larson, Erik
Vintage Books
Schechter, Harold
New York
United States - 20th Century
United States - 19th Century/Turn of the Century
Serial murders
Serial murderers
United States - State & Local - Midwest
Murder - Serial Killers
World History-General
Pathological Psychology
history;chicago;non-fiction;true crime;architecture;murder;crime;serial killer;world s fair;mystery;fiction;19th century;chicago world s fair;american history;historical fiction;historical;biography;illinois;america;american;thriller;daniel burnham;1890s;
Edition Number:
1st paperback ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
February 10, 2004
Grade Level:
9 x 6 in 1.26 lb

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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 464 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780375725609 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

An amazing history that recounts the inconceivable events surrounding the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, Larson's tale captures a time and place that vividly come to life. The central characters in this tale are Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the construction of the fair, and H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who used the popularity of the fair for his own nefarious ends. Burnham's work at overcoming the insurmountable obstacles before completing this awe inspiring project is interwoven with chapters relating to the maniacal Holmes, whose person will keep you both captivated and haunted. Breathtakingly written, this almost unbelievable history reads like the work of a highly inventive novelist.

"Staff Pick" by ,

"I was mesmerized by this book. It was a deliciously creepy read, made more creepy for being true. Several times in the course of reading it, I had to keep reminding myself that the events really happened."

"Review A Day" by , "You've got to respect a book that makes you keep flipping to the back cover, double-checking that it is nonfiction. Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City seems like something from the mind of, say, Thomas Harris. But it is, in fact, true. A gruesome and gripping book....[T]he heart of the story is so good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already." (read the entire Esquire review)
"Review" by , "Engrossing...exceedingly well documented...utterly fascinating."
"Review" by , "A wonderfully unexpected book....Larson is a historian...with a novelist's soul."
"Review" by , "Another successful exploration of American history....Larson skillfully balances the grisly details with the far-reaching implications of the World's Fair."
"Review" by , "Vivid history of the glittering Chicago World?s Fair and its dark side."
"Review" by , "[Larson] uses language well, but has little sense of pacing or focus, perhaps because of the huge amount of material available on the fair....There is much less material available on H. H. Holmes, and Larson tells that part of the story economically."
"Synopsis" by , The story of two men's obsessions with the Chicago World's Fair — one its architect, the other a murderer. The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others.
"Synopsis" by , The story of two men's obsessions with the White City Fair, one its architect, the other a murderer.
"Synopsis" by , A riveting account of a gruesome triple-homicide at Beekman Place in Depression Era New York, with an intriguing cast of characters including the brilliant but mentally-disturbed sculptor, Robert Irwin.
"Synopsis" by , Beekman Place, once one of the most exclusive addresses in Manhattan, had a curious way of making it into the tabloids in the 1930s: and#8220;SKYSCRAPER SLAYER,and#8221; and#8220;BEAUTY SLAIN IN BATHTUBand#8221; read the headlines. On Easter Sunday in 1937, the discovery of a grisly triple homicide at Beekman Place would rock the neighborhood yet againand#8212;and enthrall the nation. The young man who committed the murders would come to be known in the annals of American crime as the Mad Sculptor.


Caught up in the Easter Sunday slayings was a bizarre and sensationalistic cast of characters, seemingly cooked up in a tabloid editorand#8217;s overheated imagination. The charismatic perpetrator, Robert Irwin, was a brilliant young sculptor who had studied with some of the masters of the era. But with his genius also came a deeply disturbed psyche; Irwin was obsessed with sexual self-mutilation and was frequently overcome by outbursts of violent rage.


Irwinand#8217;s primary victim, Veronica Gedeon, was a figure from the world of pulp fantasyand#8212;a stunning photographer's model whose scandalous seminude pinups would titillate the public for weeks after her death. Irwinand#8217;s defense attorney, Samuel Leibowitz, was a courtroom celebrity with an unmatched record of acquittals and clients ranging from Al Capone to the Scottsboro Boys. And Dr. Fredric Wertham, psychiatrist and forensic scientist, befriended Irwin years before the murders and had predicted them in a public lecture months before the crime.


Based on extensive research and archival records, The Mad Sculptor recounts the chilling story of the Easter Sunday murdersand#8212;a case that sparked a nationwide manhunt and endures as one of the most engrossing American crime dramas of the twentieth century. Harold Schechterand#8217;s masterful prose evokes the faded glory of post-depression New York and the singular madness of a brilliant mind turned against itself. It will keep you riveted until the very last page.

"Synopsis" by , Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.
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