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The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Review: 2 / 5

I’ve never been a huge fan of true crime, but The Devil in the White City had the interesting premise of weaving the story of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 along with the story of the serial killer adjacent to the fair, H. H. Holmes.

The story alernates between the work that went ino putting on the fair (with a focus on the architects who designed the major buildings) and the story of Holmes establishing himself and building his murder house in Chicago, with brief interludes to check in on the madman who would eventually assassinate a key Chicago political figure. The story was interesting at times, but I found myself struggling to care about the struggles to put on the fair since the focus was so heavily on the Great Men who delivered the fair through sheer force of will — a common reading of history that just isn’t particularly engaging to me. The story of Holmes also was not particularly interesting, especially because very little seems to be known of his motives so we mostly learn about what a cunning and charming man he was and how incompotent the Chicago police were.

The writing also regularly told us “this will be important later” to call out details or left us with mini cliffhangers that mostly left me annoyed that the author didn’t trust me to keep track of details myself or trust the writing enough to move the story forward without cliffhangers.

This book won awards and people seem to love it, so I am chalking this up as another sign that true crime stories are not for me.


Title: The Devil in the White City
Author: Erik Larson
Published: 2003
ISBN: 9780375725609
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