The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson

74%

43 Critic Reviews

But it is excellent nonfiction, chronicling the hurly-burly planning and construction of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (which did, as the title suggests, include building what amounted to an entire city) and a cruelly calculating sociopath who used the event's tumult and crowds to serve his homicidal compulsion.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.




From the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Erik Larson

See more books from this Author
ERIK LARSON is the author of the national bestsellers Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac's Storm. ErikLarsonBooks.com
 
Published February 10, 2004 by Vintage. 447 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Professional & Technical, Political & Social Sciences, Arts & Photography, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Aug 30 2015
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Devil In The White City
All: 43 | Positive: 33 | Negative: 10

Kirkus

Excellent
Nov 15 2002

Gripping drama, captured with a reporter’s nose for a good story and a novelist’s flair for telling it. The result is a synthetic blend that doesn't do justice to either.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Mar 03 2003

But it is excellent nonfiction, chronicling the hurly-burly planning and construction of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (which did, as the title suggests, include building what amounted to an entire city) and a cruelly calculating sociopath who used the event's tumult and crowds to serve his homicidal compulsion.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Dec 16 2002

This book is everything popular history should be, meticulously recreating a rich, pre-automobile America on the cusp of modernity, in which the sale of "articulated" corpses was a semi-respectable trade and serial killers could go well-nigh unnoticed.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Feb 10 2003

Mr. Larson has written a dynamic, enveloping book filled with haunting, closely annotated information.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Stephen Bayley on Jan 25 2003

Larson. . .does not successfully resolve an interesting idea into a wholly cohesive narrative.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by ToddT on Aug 05 2011

Erik Larson is nonfiction’s John Updike with a rich and precise use of language. He teases the story out of its tangled web in a masterful fashion. The Devil in the White City deserves and receives my highest marks.

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Blog Critics

Below average
Reviewed by Jessica Schneider on Dec 28 2008

As a work of research it is very well done, that is, assuming it is all correct. Yet as a literary read? The writing should have been tightened, made less pedestrian, and just overall more oomph added.

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Book Reporter

Excellent
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on Feb 09 2002

. . .so engrossing a tale that it is impossible to put down.

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Keith Phipps on Feb 25 2003

Larson lets his parallel narratives exist side by side, seldom directly commenting on their connections, and The Devil In The White City is all the more powerful for it

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Daniel Fierman on Jan 17 2015

In the soaring dreams of Daniel Burnham and the hellish ones of Henry Holmes, Larson has paired two unlikely stories that paint a dazzling picture of the Gilded Age and prefigure the American century to come. A time that would be freewheeling, wildly innovative, and staggering in its ambition and avarice. And, of course, bloody as hell.

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Pajiba

Excellent
Reviewed by Melody Lane on Feb 24 2009

The back and forth between the stories of Daniel Burnham, a honest, hardworking man, and Dr. Holmes, very likely a sociopath, makes for engrossing reading.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Below average
Reviewed by Bob Hoover on Feb 23 2003

If Larson's book has lasting value, it's as the impetus to read more about the exposition, an event far more interesting than the author makes it out to be.

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Persephone Magazine

Above average
Reviewed by Sally J. Freedman on Sep 18 2013

I learned a lot of Chicago trivia, as well as Columbian Exposition trivia while reading this book...If you’re looking for an interesting historical read, this is a good one.

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Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Below average
Reviewed by Bob Hoover on Feb 23 2003

Larson mixes two stories that simply aren't related. The result is a synthetic blend that doesn't do justice to either.

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Beyond Chron

Above average
Reviewed by Randy Shaw on Jul 22 2004

Larson deserves appreciation for reviving this historic, if sociologically destructive, event for modern readers.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by Caity N. on Mar 31 2015

My only problem with this book is in the beginning there is a lot of history so it is a little boring. Other than that the book was great. The book is thrilling and mysterious with a bit of history.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by inkers on Mar 30 2015

It was well written and organized, and informing as well as entertaining. I admit that I never would have read it had it not been for a school assignment, but I’m very glad that I did and would certainly recommend it to others, especially to those inclined towards architecture, Chicago history, or simply murder stories.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Melissa J. on Mar 30 2015

I would suggest reading this book if you enjoy history and a great murder novel. It definitely keeps you locked in.

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EzineArticles

Good
Reviewed by John Sprague on Dec 14 2011

This is a story of Good and Evil living side by side. They were separate events that show high nineties life and the actions of a madman creating chaos at the turn of the century. Chicago was a busy place at that time and an interesting part of American history.

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Curled Up

Good
Reviewed by Luan Gaines on Mar 31 2015

The contrasts between rich and poor and good and evil provide the fascination of this thoroughly researched work, especially the unremitting drive toward progress in Chicago, almost a definition of the American spirit and the amassing of great wealth through industrialization and monopolies.

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Brothers Judd

Good
Sep 26 2003

. . .a breakneck pace combined with fascinating portrayals of both the good and the bad aspects of the coming of the modern age.

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Fyrefly's Book Blog

Good
on Jul 15 2008

A must-read for native Chicagoans (or visitors looking to do some localized reading), even those like me who actively avoid local history. For others, it’s a compelling and well-written piece of history about a fascinating event in a fascinating period of time.

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Book Journey

Good
Reviewed by Sheila on Aug 11 2011

...this non fiction read will capture you and not let you go. This well written books reads like a smoothly flowing fiction book, but the fact is – it is not fiction.

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The Literary Omnivore

Above average
Reviewed by The Literary Omnivore on Aug 02 2010

While I’m still not sure what the two stories honestly have to do with each other, The Devil in the White City is a fascinating look at Gilded Age Chicago, the World’s Fair, and a scarily charming serial killer.

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The Introverted Reader

Above average
Reviewed by Introverted Jen on Jan 27 2012

I would prefer to see the picture showing me how big the main building of the fair was rather than just giving me raw numbers. Overall, though, I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. I wouldn't mind reading more by this author.

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A Bookish Affair

Good
Reviewed by Meg on Jun 17 2015

Larson moves back and forth between the lead-up to the World's Fair and the murders. I loved this juxtaposition! On one hand, you have a group of great minds trying to bring order to chaos. On the other hand, you have a deranged mind bent on bringing chaos. It was so cool! Overall, this was a really great story!

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Caribous Mom

Good
Reviewed by Wendy on Sep 12 2007

Larson’s accessible prose puts it all together for the reader without weighing her down with facts. Larson’s parallel story about H. H. Holmes – the first American serial killer – is just as compelling and provides the dark side to the White City.

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Confessions of a Bibliophile

Above average
on Apr 13 2011

Unfortunately, because the book is straight non-fiction, rather than creative non-fiction, it can get a little dry in places. There’s really only so many times you need to tell me that the landscape designer...was extremely particular. Beyond that, I found it to be a very interesting piece of history.

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Pages of Julia's Blog

Good
Reviewed by pagesofjulia on Jun 30 2011

I found this book captivating, and I recommend it as a pleasurable read that may sneak some learning in on you. I invite readers of thrillers and evocative nonfiction to enter this fantastic, glittering, magical, and deadly – and true – world.

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The Picky Girl

Good
Reviewed by pickygirl on Mar 07 2011

I don’t want to give away any of the magic moments of this book, but it sure has them. The inventions and innovation were unbelievable, and I had to Google them several times (even though I knew this was nonfiction) to find out more. It is truly incredible what and who this short period of time spawned.

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Musings of a Literary Dilettante's Blog

Good
Reviewed by musingsofaliterarydilettante on Dec 02 2010

The book is a very interesting read, particularly if you’re a history buff. For me, I’ll try to remember the White City rather than the Black.

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Having Said That

Below average
Reviewed by Heather on Apr 09 2012

Despite my objections to the book, this doesn’t mean that everyone will dislike it. I would recommend it most for those who have a great interest in American History or Architecture.

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My Book Retreat

Excellent
Reviewed by Julie on May 07 2012

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will absolutely check out other books by Larson. I look forward to discussing this one with my book club at the end of this month.

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Jandy's Reading Room

Good
Mar 19 2012

. . .a flowing book that is readable and enjoyable.

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Publishing A Book Is An Adventure

Below average
Reviewed by Jessica Dall on Jan 19 2012

All in all, it would be difficult—if not impossible—to call Larson a bad writer. As far as writing skills, and research ability, he more than carries his own. Perhaps, then, the fault is in the titling of The Devil in the White City. The title alone promises more intrigue and drama than Larson seemed willing to deliver.

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Anita Books

Good
Reviewed by needie in books on Jul 31 2012

You will learn so much as you read this book. Little nuances that you never knew or never realized before will become apparent, and you will be very pleased. Rarely do I finish a book and feel such pleasure that I’ve used my time so wisely.

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Libereading Blog

Below average
Reviewed by Rayna on Apr 28 2012

The scope of the work is impressive, but it is held back by too many small problems to be a completely satisfying read.

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We Be Reading

Good
Reviewed by Kristen M. on Sep 30 2011

But, of course, I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested and it certainly made a chilling RIP read. The evil that men do is always worse than any fiction.

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DeFlip Side

Good
Reviewed by Christopher DeFilippis on Feb 20 2011

. . .a prime example of popular history done right.

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k(atty) at law

Good

History comes alive and long-dead people find their voices through Larson.

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Amber Stults

Good
Reviewed by Amber Stults on Apr 04 2012

It’s an extraordinary tale of these two men and how one event would have a lasting impact on the United States.

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Flickfilosopher

Good
on Aug 15 2010

This is how amazing Larson makes the Chicago World’s Fair sound: I knew almost nothing about it before I read this book, and now… When the Doctor comes for me in the TARDIS, I am going to insist that this be one of the first stops we make.

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Flickfilosopher

Good
Reviewed by Maryann Johanson on Aug 15 2010

. . .Larson’s description of the fruition of their work to bring the Fair to life is so magnificent that I can’t believe I missed it by being born too late.

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Reader Rating for The Devil In The White City
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Michael Manley 20 Aug 2013

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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