Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a very well-written, incredibly researched book. I’m not so sure I see the connection between the psychopathic serial killer and the building of the White City. In my mind they are two very distinct stories that happen to take place at the same time. My preference was for the building of the World’s Fair — I found the information fascinating and suspenseful — if building a world’s fair could be suspenseful. I’m an architecture buff and have visited Chicago’s beautiful city several times, but never the site of the fair. Now I want to go back and do a tour of this site now that I’ve read the book. There are so many interesting facets to the building of the fair that I didn’t think it needed to be interrupted with the incredibly disturbing details of the serial killer. Why I hadn’t heard of him before I’m not really sure. By rights, he should be more famous than Jack the Ripper.
I’ve read the endnotes and Mr. Larson’s explanation of why he chose to blend the two stories — the lightness of the fair vs. the darkness of the murders, but since one is about an individual and the other is about civic coming together, I’m still not convinced they needed to be in the same book — granted, that’s just me. However, it was a good read and kept my attention through the entire book. I did like the way he wrote; you really felt as if you were there, watching the action unfold. It read like a story and definitely not like a dry history book.

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