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Winner, 2004 Edgar Award
Winner, 2003 International Horror Guild Award for Non-fiction
2003 National Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction
Vintage Paperback is Available
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. 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.
"A magnificent book." —Booklist (American Library Association)
"Larson (Isaac's Storm) uses a novelist's stylish techniques to re-create the triumphant 1893 World's Fair in Chicago while not taking fictional liberties with history. This convincing portrait includes a ghoulish subplot involving a rich, murderous doctor, Henry H. Holmes, who preyed on the fair's droves of innocent visitors, at least nine of whom disappeared forever into his nearby den of horrors, the 'White Fair Hotel.' Larson tells the crime story without overshadowing the transformative national achievement of the fair. A period piece overlaid with a darkly contemporary sensibility."--Library Journal, A Best Books of 2003