Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
I was late to the party in reading Erik Larson’s, The Devil in the White City, which was published in 2003. The book recounts the inspiration for and construction of the 1893 Chicago World Fair, thanks in large part to the chief architect, Daniel Hudson Burnham, under extremely difficult conditions. Larsen’s talent as a writer is indisputable, and although the myriad of events depicted here were thoroughly researched, this story reads like a novel. On its own, this is an interesting historical account; Frederick Law Olmstead, Susan B. Anthony, George W.G. Ferris (yes, that Ferris) and Buffalo Bill Cody, are some of the many familiar characters who appear in the story. The real hook, however, is the parallel story line of the deranged physician, Herman Webster Mudgett aka H.H. Holmes, who capitalized on the influx of people to the Windy City and the frenetic energy generated by the Fair to lure and kill scores of women. The addition of a serial killer always spices up a storyline! A portrait of such depravity would be worthy of a Stephen King novel - the fact that is was a true account makes the spine tingle a little sharper.
Devil in the White City was the recipient of the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime in 2004.
Review by Sarah Ehrenson