We will talk about The Devil in the White City on Tuesday, March 8, 2016.
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.