Devil in the White City


Author:  Erik Larson

Title:  Devil in the White City:  Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

Genre:  Nonfiction

Publication Date:  2003

Number of Pages:  370

Geographical Setting:  Chicago

Time Period:  1890s

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Daniel Burnham is an architect who has done well for himself and has his name attached to many a great building.  “Devil in the White City” is the tale of how Burnham came to oversee designs of the World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1893.    But it also the story of another man.  H. H. Holmes also became notorious because of his involvement with the World Fair, or rather, the murders he committed all during its celebrations.  This book intertwines the two lives and vividly depicts just how eventful the fair really was.

Subject Headings:  Chicago; World Fair – 1893; Murder;  Identity Theft;  Architecture

Appeal:  alternating points of view, detailed and accurate Chicago setting, resolved ending, knowledgeable details of architecture and engineering, urban setting, cryptic, cunning villain, steady incline of tension, well-drawn conflicts, distant characterization, heavy description, minimum dialogue, unhurried pace

3 terms that best describe this book:  Dark, Descriptive, Foreboding

Similar Authors and Works
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

“Chicago Architecture:  1885 to Today” by The Chicago Architecture Foundation, Edward Keegan, and Lynn J. Osmond.  A visual supplement to the buildings in Larson’s text, and maybe even some of those described within.

“Murder and Mayhem in Chicago’s Downtown” by Troy Taylor.  A description of other violent scandals that have taken place in the Second City.

“The Strange Case of Dr. H. H. Holmes” by John Borowski.  Another account of the murderer, as he is portrayed as very mysterious by Larson,

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

“Murder in the Pharmacy” by Charley Doyle Mills.  Like Holmes, this perpetrator uses his connection with pharmaceuticals to commit his crimes, and for a further similarity, the reasons behind the gruesome intention are seemingly unknown.

“Honeymoon” by James Patterson.  This tale centers on a female character who takes lovers, murders them, and acquires their assets.  Perhaps she and Holmes would have been a good match.

“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown.  This book also interweaves historical architecture with the quest to catch a murderer.  A tad more graphic, but compelling nonetheless.

Name:  Melissa


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