Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review: Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So you kind of pick up the gist of what this book is about by the title, but ultimately this is about the creation and execution of the first World's Fair in Chicago in the 1890s and H. H. Holmes, a murderer who used it as a cover-up/aid to his schemes.

First of all, it was kind of hard for me to rate this book. I actually didn't care for the narrator in the audiobook version which may have affected my rating. So, I would definitely recommend reading it yourself. Aside from that, as far as being a history-type book, this was quite interesting. Before reading this I didn't know anything about the World's Fair and how it came to be. It was an amazing feat of engineering and even more impressive that they were able to pull it together as fast as they did.

While the building and history of the World's Fair was interesting in and of itself, I thought the parts about H. H. Holmes and his escapades were fascinating. He was basically a psychopath who lured women to their demise using his charm, wit, flattery, and "stunning" blue eyes. Of course he used his charms on many others including business partners, creditors, and law enforcement officials. It was amazing to see how long he was able to get away with his crimes just by using his personality to get people to trust him. It really is a scary thought to know that there are people out there like him.

I thought this book was definitely worth reading and I feel like I learned a lot about a great time in our nation's history.


Paul said...

Hm. I read it and found it pretty interesting. I tried one of Larsen's later books and thought he was leaning a little too heavily on his trick of matching moment in history to murderers. That one was Thunderstruck, still interesting but problematic because there is now some doubt about the guilt of the murderer in that story. Anyway, who was the narrator for this? Anyone famous?

Karen said...

The narrator was Tony Goldwyn... I've never heard of him, thus he must not be famous. :D

Yeah I wouldn't say Larsen was the greatest writer ever. I think the book could have been a lot shorter had he removed all the repetitions and such. I think it was probably worth reading from a history standpoint, but I definitely wasn't on the edge of my seat.