Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Fair and Some Related Murder

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

Summary: Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

Review: An informative tale of the Chicago World’s Fair mixed in with a tale of a murderer.

From the summary, I thought the story of Holmes, a notorious murderer that killed many people, would be directly related to the World’s Fair, connected to it in some deep way. There was no connection though. Holmes was a murderer who just happened to be in Chicago at the time of the World’s Fair and managed to take advantage of the young women who came to visit the fair. Violence and crime was not uncommon during that time period of Chicago as statistics in the book reveal and I am sure there was thievery, assault, and murder during the fair. Yes, Holmes was a serial killer, but his story felt tacked on.

It was very interested to read about the fair and how it came about. What really amazed me was how quickly everything was designed and built. The amount of exhibits, buildings, displays, and people there was astounding. The fair came close to not being finished a number of times and could have easily not made enough money to repay their creditors. There were a number of descriptions and stories from those who attended the fair. What was really missing from this book were pictures.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those that are interested in learning more about the World's Fair and how it came to be.

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