Customer Reviews


266 Reviews
5 star:
 (139)
4 star:
 (78)
3 star:
 (26)
2 star:
 (16)
1 star:
 (7)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, well written
What strikes me most about this book is the detailed research that went into the parallel story about the Chicago World's Fair and how it's woven around the story of the murders. Larson's book is a pure enjoyment--a historical journey into the history of Chicago, warts and all. The reader not only learns about Daniel Burnham's amazing feat pulling together the Columbia...
Published on Nov. 14 2006 by David

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad
The book does a good treatment of the development of the World's Fair. It is really a biography of the architects that built it. The material on the killer is sketchy at best, and only serves to broaden interest in buyers, without adding much to the content.
Published on July 9 2004


‹ Previous | 1 227 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, well written, Nov. 14 2006
This review is from: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)
What strikes me most about this book is the detailed research that went into the parallel story about the Chicago World's Fair and how it's woven around the story of the murders. Larson's book is a pure enjoyment--a historical journey into the history of Chicago, warts and all. The reader not only learns about Daniel Burnham's amazing feat pulling together the Columbia Exposition of 1893 and the ways it changed the nation, but he contrasts this event with America's first serial killer, ironically steps away from the fair. The reader is tugged from good to evil, from risk to murder, from heaven to hell. Enjoy the ride and thanks Mr. Larson for allowing us to take that ride!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enthralling page turner; exceptionally well-written, Jan. 21 2007
By 
Shemogue (New Brunswick) - See all my reviews
In 1890 Chicago had a justly earned reputation for filth, squalor, crime and violence; its biggest tourist attractions were its vast stock yards and slaughterhouses. But that year, having just edged out Philadelphia as the second most populous city in the U.S., Chicagoans had the audacity to dream of being something greater than hog-butchers as they won the bid to host the 1893 World Exposition.
This book is about the struggle to realize that dream, the building of the "White City" on a barren tract of lakefront swampland. Interwoven with the main story is the darker one of the charming serial killer, Henry Holmes, who built his World's Fair Hotel just down the street & to which he lured uncounted numbers of young women.

The book is a fascinating page-turner, all the more remarkable for being true - I raced through it in a day & a half. But even more remarkable is Erik Larson's writing style; there were many instances where I slowed down just to savor his turn of phrase. Here are some examples:

"Every day he saw (women) stepping from trains and... hansom cabs, inevitably frowning at some piece of paper that was supposed to tell them where they belonged. The city's madams understood this and were known to meet inbound trains with promises of warmth and friendship, saving the important news for later."

"Homes adored Chicago... in particular how the smoke and din could envelop a woman and leave no hint that she had ever existed."

In a Minneapolis shop Holmes has just met Myrta whom he would later bigamously marry: "When he left the store that first day, as motes of dust filled the space he had left behind, her own life seemed drab beyond endurance. A clock ticked. Something had to change."
(Myrta was luckier than his other wives; at least 2 of them Holmes seduced, murdered, dissected & sold their articulated skeletons to medical schools.)

The book seems to get off to a slow start, mired in biographical details of a host of characters whose importance we do not yet know but this mirrors the slow start to the building of the Fair itself as months are spent in frustrating waits for committee meetings, approvals, budgets & minutiae before construction can begin. Despite setbacks, strikes and storms, the pace & the suspense pick up speed; events unfold faster & faster; thousands of workmen, tons of dirt, trainloads of materials and exhibits, hordes of visitors pass before our eyes as the book and the Fair hurtle to conclusion. In parallel, as more women go missing inquiries are begun; Holmes becomes more brazen and more careless; bodies found beneath a house in downtown Toronto are traced to Holmes; he is arrested, tried and hanged.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CHICAGO...CHICAGO...IT'S A WONDERFUL TOWN..., April 18 2012
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)
This is an exceptionally well written, well-researched book about two events that were intertwined, the Chicago World's Fair and the crimes of a serial killer in late nineteenth century Chicago. The book is rife with period detail and highly descriptive passages that give the reader a taste of what living in Chicago was like at that time.

The book provides a fascinating look at the enormous work and planning that went into creating the Chicago World's Fair, making it into one that was truly remarkable for its time, given some of the problems that the architects had to overcome. It also provides a fascinating look into the lives of some of the key players involved in its creation.

Meanwhile, an enterprising and charismatic killer was also at work, his story being tied into that of the creation of the Chicago World's Fair itself. His story, however, is the weaker part of the book, as it lacks the detail that is evident in the other segment of the book. Still, it provides an interesting look into the life of a serial killer who seemed to go about his grisly business with impunity, as well as a look at crime, law enforcement, and the state of criminal justice in late nineteenth century Chicago.

The photographs that were included in the book are excellent and illustrative. The only problem is that there are not enough of them, as the few that are included simply make the reader desire more of them. Still, those with an appreciation of history will enjoy this work of non-fiction and look forward to reading more by this author.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, July 9 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)
The book does a good treatment of the development of the World's Fair. It is really a biography of the architects that built it. The material on the killer is sketchy at best, and only serves to broaden interest in buyers, without adding much to the content.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars a page turner, March 20 2014
By 
Lynne Frappier (Ottawa) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)
Erik Larson was able to weave both the story of the building of the White City and the evil that resided within it's reach. I loved how he was able to bring the characters back to life and flipped from each storyline so that neither one ever got to overwhelming or tedious.

Highly recommended read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't want to put it down!, Dec 31 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Although I was actually aware that the Chicago World's Fair had occurred, I had no idea, before this book, just what an undertaking it was. Mr. Larson has done a superb job of not only telling the tale of the gargantuan project itself, but of immersing the reader in the culture, economy and politics of the time. Interwoven with the shocking tale of a psychopathic serial killer, who went virtually unmolested for years, the book was irresistible to me.

I did think that the writing style was occasionally a bit awkward, but that did not deter at all from my enjoyment of the book. Can't wait to read another of Mr. Larson's historical treasures.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1.0 out of 5 stars So boring, Nov. 8 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)
Could not get into this book, so so so boring. Had to read it for a class, otherwise I wouldn't have wasted my money
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Not as exciting as the cover made it sound, Aug. 9 2013
By 
This review is from: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)
The Devil in the White City has the right formula to be a book I’d love. Erik Larson paints a historical account of the construction of the 1893 Chicago World Fair, as the backdrop for the story of the first documented American serial killer. As a huge history nerd – especially American history – this book jumped off the shelf at me.

The book is centred around two characters: Daniel Burnham, who designed the Chicago World Fair as well as famous buildings such as Washington’s Union Station and the Flatiron building in New York City; and H.H. Holmes who confessed to 27 murders, but is thought to have killed closer to 200. Larson obviously did his research on both the 1893 fair and Holmes’ murders as he spares no detail covering both events.

This bestseller is non-fiction but it reads like a novel, which is good because it keeps you intrigued. But it does hit a lot of slow patches that tend to drag on. Larson goes into a lot of specifics about how Chicago won the rights to have the fair and the 2.5 years of construction that followed. It was very interesting at parts, but there were times where he would spend pages describing arguments between the architects and the committee in place to get the fair up and running…yawn. He goes into great detail about the great deal of stress and little time available to get the fair done ‘right’ and ready by opening day, but his exhaustive account bordered on overkill.

Speaking of overkill, the story of serial killer H.H. Holmes was more entertaining than the lengthy scene-setting. Noticeably, Larson continuously repeats that Holmes’ demeanour and bright blue eyes put people at ease. I understand that the author is trying to cement the point that Holmes had a way of winning people over, but it was unnecessary to even mention this within the last few chapters of the book when it had already been well-established. Holmes’ deceit and ability to keep people unsuspicious of him is interesting.

There was also a minor subplot involving one Patrick Eugene Prendergast who is famous for assassinating the Chicago mayor Carter Harrison at the fair’s end, and being the first murder case of lawyer Clarence Darrow. These small insights into Prendergast were out of place in the story as it seemed like Larson remembered every now and then and so he would insert a small chapter on him.

On the whole, the stories were interesting but were not nearly as entwined as the book cover made them out to be. The events coincided with each other only in the sense that they ran concurrently. Holmes wasn’t killing people because of the fair but because he was a deranged man who enjoyed killing – and mostly women. I enjoyed some parts of the book, but overall I found it difficult to gather enthusiasm to keep picking it up for fear of more slow-moving chapters.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars The Devil in teh White City by Erik Larson, July 31 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)
I found this book so stressful with the two story lines - the building of the 1893 World's Trade Fair in Chicago and the serial killer on the loose. They had 2 years to design and build the site including the buildings and the site. As the Landscape Architect could not do his work until the buildings were erected and finished due to the railway tracks coming into the site to deliver the goods and he had to finish his work after whereas when he designed Central Park in NYC it was a 25 year project. With all the contractors and the short time frame - I was stressed wondering how they were going to get it done.
The story line of the serial killer - every time he met with someone or took a girl on a date - would this be the time he got rid of them.
I must say I certainly got my $s worth in reading this book. It was the July selection for our Book Club - great choice. A great read and enjoyable. Great discussions after.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely phenomenal, April 20 2013
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
What a great story. Well-written and compelling, Larson puts together a tale of accomplishment and horror. A creepy, sadistic killer operates unsuspected in a city caught up with the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, itself an exhilarating experience.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 227 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
CDN$ 19.00 CDN$ 13.72
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews