Length: 447 pages
Audiobook Length: 14 hours and 58 minutes
First Published: 2003
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.
Quotes from The Devil in the White City
I was born with the devil in me,’ [Holmes] wrote. ‘I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.
His weakness was his belief that evil had boundaries
It was so easy to disappear, so easy to deny knowledge, so very easy in the smoke and din to mask that something dark had taken root. This was Chicago, on the eve of the greatest fair in history.
About Erik Larson
Erik Larson is the bestselling author of eight books, including Dead Wake, The Devil in the White City, In the Garden of Beasts, and The Splendid and the Vile. Formerly, Larson was a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and a contributing writer for Time Magazine. He currently lives in Manhattan. Visit the author’s website →