ISBN 10: 0385602057 / ISBN 13: 9780385602051
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Synopsis: The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was one of the most spectacular exhibitions the world has ever seen. This is the story of its realization, and of the two men whose fates it linked - an architect and a serial killer. The architect as Daniel H. Burnham, who created the White City, a magical landscape of white buildings set in a wonderland of canals and gardens. The killer was H.H. Holmes, a handsome young doctor with striking blue eyes, who used the attraction of the great fair - and his own devilish charms - to lure scores of young women to their death. Holmes would stroll through the fair at night, when an electric dynamo transformed it into an incandescent fairyland, with an unsuspecting victim on each arm. While Burnham was overcoming politics, personality clashes and the ferocious Chicago winds to bring about the transformation of swampy Jackson Park into the White City, Holmes had a building project of his own just west of the fairground. He called it the Worlds Fair Hotel; in reality it was a torture palace, complete with a gas chamber and crematorium. This is the story of the men and women whose lives were irrevocably changed by the Chicago World Fair, and of Burnham and Holmes. Spicing the narrative are the stories of a cast of historical characters including Buffalo Bill, Scott Joplin and Theodore Dreiser.

Review: 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. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. 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. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. --John Moe

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Larson, Erik
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