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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (Unabridged)

by Erik Larson

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In The Devil in the White City, the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before. Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake. The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both. To find out more about this book, go to

Customer Reviews

If you're on the fence...

... about buying the unabridged over the abridged version (or, as much as I hate to entertain the thought, about buying the book at all), get off immediatey, stop reading this review, and purchase the full- blown version. But if you're into reading, I'll humor you: Every line of this book is captivating. The juxtaposition of the "devil's" story and the story of Burnham's "White City" creates an entertaining, interesting, and suspenseful dialectic on the Exposition and on America at the turn of the last century. The accounts, facts, and even quotes from various people of the era provide a complex, linear narrative as in a great novel. However, every single word of the book is derived from documented sources, an incredible testament to Larson's research into the Columbian Exposition and his storytelling prowess. When I completed this story, I was left with an (as yet) insatiable desire to know everything I could about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (though I'd wager most of what you could find is somewhere in the book) and an irrational sense of regret for not having been there or having known about the Fair previously.

Gripping book that reads like a novel

This was a great book that was extremely easy to listen to, both because of Larson's smooth writing style and a solid narration.

It presented interesting facts about both Chicago and the United States at the end of the the 19th Century while telling 2 seamlessly woven stories anchored by the World's Columbian Exposition.

I highly recommend this book!

$20 for a third of the book

Come on iTunes, it's 2015. We don't have flying cars like we were promised, but we should at least be able to buy something on the iTunes Store and actually get the whole thing. Right now when purchasing this audiobook, only part one and what I'm assuming is part 5 or 6 is downloaded. That's it. Maybe this is some sort of clever lesson from iTunes to really inspect what we buy, since the fine print for this unabridged version illogically states that it is four hours shorter than the abridged version.

Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (Unabridged)
View in iTunes $16.99
  • Narrator: Scott Brick
  • Published: 2002
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Provider: Random House Audio
  • Presented by

Customer Ratings