Book Review: The Devil in the White City

Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City intertwines the events leading to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with the actions of Dr. H. H. Holmes, a con man and serial killer who exploited the fair to access victims.

Mr. Larson does an incredible job contrasting Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer posing as a successful doctor and businessman. Both men are ruthlessly driven products of their time. Their single minded pursuit of success leads them to use/sacrifice others to achieve their goals. And although their methods are the same, it is only how society views the end result that differ.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but feel most readers are caught up in the Holmes story. And to be sure, Mr. Holmes ruthlessly pursued murder and profit. However, Daniel Burnham’s singular focus to, at least for a brief moment, make Chicago the focal point of the world, is nothing short of amazing.

A great read for both the historian and armchair detective

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