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The Devil in the White City (2003)
Tekijä: Erik Larson
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2023 book #27. 2004. In 1893, the blockbuster Chicago World's Fair opened. Also in that year a serial killer was operating in Chicago. Interesting story about how the fair was built and how the killer was eventually caught after killing nobody knows how many people. Read for a book club. ( )
The 1893 World Fair in Chicago sounds amazing and I would have loved to have visited the White City! The devil, on the other hand, was an atrocious mass serial killer who fooled just about everyone. How could I have not known about either? What an incredible book to fill a huge gap in knowledge of American history and to make it infinitely interesting. I’m so glad I finally had a reason to finally read Erik Larson!
Very interesting story of the Chicago’s world fair, intertwined with the serial killer H.H. Holmes. If I had a gripe, which is actually very minor, but the author relied too heavily on suspense when it wasn’t needed. Some things can just come out and be said, for example, and a very vague and general one. There was a guy, who had an idea, but he didn’t tell you who or what, and that idea was rejected. He kept sticking it to it and trying, and still not telling us who or what. Eventually it came out the guy wanted to make a giant wheel but we still don’t know the guy. Eventually it was revealed that he was George Ferris and his giant wheel was the first Ferris Wheel. Nothing was gained by keeping the reading in the dark about that, just say it. Same as with the name of the boat in the opening chapters, the reader should obviously be able to glean what it is, but why keep it a secret until the closing chapters? Just seemed unnecessary to me. The only other thing of note was, in the first half of the book, what seemed to be the authors creepy obsession with eyes. But again, both of these gripes are minor in the grand scheme of the book and it was very interesting and well written.
It is RARE for me not to finish a book. I actually can't remember the last time this happened. From the description I expected to love this but it was...
B O R I N G.
The events are all interesting in themselves but this was at least two different books. I'm genuinely unsure why Larson felt the need to conflate the building of the World's Fair with the machinations of serial killer HH Holmes other than they happened in the same time and place.
The two had literally nothing to do with one another (as I originally believed) and even the way the book is written (telling the two stories in alternating chapters) underscores that fact.
I suppose I have partly myself to blame because I assumed it was going to be written in a fictionalised manner but it felt more like a report... Super text book-y which gave me shivers remembering high school.
It was a huge let down and I'm kind of pissed that I wasted as much time as I did before giving up.
For writing quality, this book is a five star read. Larson takes a topic that honestly could have been pretty dull - - and finds a way to spice it up and make it gripping reading. It really was hard to put down for me. He has a very engaging style and knows how to up the suspense.
Unfortunately, at the heart of the tale is the story of how a fair got built and no matter how you slice it, that really isn't the most heart grabbing subject matter. And this is from someone who thought the stories of Facebook and the rise of Apple were incredible. Any endeavor of this size is going to have quite a few trials and tribulations, and the Fair had many. But they were pretty much mostly of the variety I would expect. The more interesting part was the personalities involved, and I think Larson does realize that and makes the most of the characters.
I found the parallel story of Holmes to be the more interesting of the two story lines as he truly was a sociopath. But somehow I didn't quite feel the emotional heat that I felt when I read my other true crime book this month. With that book, I was literally sick to my stomach as I followed the crime and the resolution. This book is more cool, more historical . . .and that keeps you more at arms length. But it was still fascinating because Larson does gather a lot of very important detail, and he uses that to draw a pretty clear picture of what went on during the time of the Fair.
All in all, a great read, and I would definitely recommend it. To get that fifth star from me, it would have to have been more emotional - - but if I remember that it is a piece of non-fiction and historical non-fiction at that - - well, I don't think the subject matter could have possibly been handled any better than it was!
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Mr. Larson has written a dynamic, enveloping book filled with haunting, closely annotated information. And it doesn't hurt that this truth really is stranger than fiction.
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The Devil in the White City: The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson | Key Summary Breakdown & Analysis (tekijä: Instanalysis)
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (7)
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America₂s 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 fairgrounds₇a 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. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before. 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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)364.15230977311Social sciences Social problems and services; associations Criminology Crimes and Offenses Offenses against persons Homicide Murder History, geographic treatment, biography North America Midwestern U.S.
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