#CBR4 Review 6: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

9 Jan

One of my favorite Pajiba columns is the one where they highlight historical events that would make great movies. And while I know there have been an endless number of movies made profiling sociopathic serial killers over the years, my heart jumped a little when I Googled the book and saw that Leonardo DiCaprio is interested in making, and starring in, the film adaptation of this book. Whether that project will ever come to be remains to be seen, but it could be great.

The Devil in the White City chronicles planning, development and execution of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, as well as Dr. H.H. Holmes’ planning, development and execution of a series of murders leading up to, during and after the World Fair.

What initially attracted me to this book was the Chicago World Fair. World’s Fairs fascinate me. I could spend hours in the museum exhibits across the countries detailing the old World’s Fairs. In terms of the World’s Fair history, this book had it all. The old-fashioned competition of countries competing to have the biggest, brightest, best Fair. The unparalleled advances in technology on display for the world to see (the light installation in the Chicago fair was particularly awesome). The planning of such an event is naturally rife with drama, and the biggest names of the day, whether they be artists, architects, or businessmen, were always involved some how.

I ended up reading this book in two pieces: all of the chapters on Dr. H.H. Holmes first, and then all of the chapters on the World’s Fair. The portrait of Holmes as a killer is chilling, and enthralling. Reading about his exploits was terrifying in the best way possible. The only let down, for me, is how little they ended up knowing about Holmes and his killings because he had mastered the art of destroying evidence and deflecting attention.

This was a great historical read, and I’m excited about cracking open another Larson book, Isaac’s Storm, shortly. While Holmes is the real draw of the book, and will certainly be the focus of the movie, the chapters on Burnham and Olmsted’s visions, decisions and set backs are also worth a look.



3 Responses to “#CBR4 Review 6: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson”

  1. even stevens January 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    I’m pretty finicky about historical fiction, but this one got so many recommendations and man, it did not disappoint. Man’s got a gift. I’ve got his most recent one, In The Garden of Beasts, waiting for me on my Kindle


  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #06: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson « Cannonball Read IV - January 9, 2012

    […] To read more… Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggStumbleUpon Posted by hellokatieo in 4 stars – a great book and tagged CBR4, chicago, hellokatieo, historical nonfiction, nonfiction, suspense […]

  2. Cannonball Read IV reviews of note - January 20, 2012

    […] reads like a novel. Good. That’s the only kind of historical nonfiction I can choke down. The Devil in the White City by Erik […]

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