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Publisher's Summary

In a thrilling narrative showcasing his gifts as storyteller and researcher, Erik Larson recounts the spellbinding tale of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The White City (as it became known) was a magical creation constructed upon Chicago's swampy Jackson Park by Daniel H. Burnham, the famed architect who coordinated the talents of Frederick Olmsted, Louis Sullivan, and others to build it. Dr. Henry H. Holmes combined the fair's appeal with his own fatal charms to lure scores of women to their deaths. Whereas the fair marked the birth of a new epoch in American history, Holmes marked the emergence of a new American archetype, the serial killer, who thrived on the very forces then transforming the country.
In deft prose, Larson conveys Burnham's herculean challenge to build the White City in less than 18 months. At the same time, he describes how, in a malign parody of the achievements of the fair's builders, Holmes built his own World's Fair Hotel - a torture palace complete with a gas chamber and crematorium. Throughout the book, tension mounts on two fronts: Will Burnham complete the White City before the millions of visitors arrive at its gates? Will anyone stop Holmes as he ensnares his victims?
©2003 Erik Larson (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

Edgar Allan Poe Award Winner, Fact Crime, 2004
"A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private." (Chicago Tribune)"Vivid history of the glittering Chicago World's Fair and its dark side." (New York Magazine) "Both intimate and engrossing, Larson's elegant historical account unfolds with the painstaking calm of a Holmes murder."(Library Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By D on 09-18-03

A Rich Read!

I enjoyed this listen so much I lost sleep to continue listening. Scott Brick is my favorite narrator and he doesn't disappoint here. Set in Chicago in the late 1800's the book tells two stories. The fascinating story of Chicago's rush to build the White City and hold the World Fair of 1893 (celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America and visited by everyone who was anyone); as well as the murderous actions of Herman Mudgett (a.k.a. HH Holmes) a well respected doctor who preyed on young trusting women, and anyone else who got in his way.

The author writes in such a way that you can truly imagine the excitement and boom happening in that place and time. Other added details such as the detectives' intense search for evidence, appearances by famous people, and a tale from the Titanic make this story a rich and enjoyable read.

This was a huge undertaking for any author and I'm glad Larson ventured to uncover this enthralling story, however more details of both the murders and the building of the city would have been welcomed. Still a fascinating read that for the first time makes me look forward to the movie so I can see the incredible White City come to life.

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184 of 198 people found this review helpful

By Kelly on 06-18-14

two excellent stores read by a superb narrator

My daughter was assigned this book as part of her summer reading for her Honor's English class. I got to it first and spent two nights awake until dawn listening in wonder. I expected a murder mystery set in the World's Fair. It was so much more. Really there were two stories running concurrently. We did follow HH Holme and know what he was up to while living in Chicago. There was nothing gruesome -- Mr Larson writes about Holmes' machinations in a straightforward way. For me this mad it feel less sensational and I was glad for the writing style.

The other story interested me further. Following the preparation for, the buildup towards, and the financial consequences of the Fair was fascinating. It allows the reader to understand the culture of our home country at a time more than 100 years in our past. We meet world leaders, owners of the largest businesses, the father of a son who later be known as WALT DISNEY. But we also meet people that some might not recognize. FREDERICK LAW OLMSTEAD played a large role throughout the book. It was fascination t flesh out his life as I knew him only as the designer of Central Park in New York. Interspersed throughout the entire story are came performances. I particularly liked the the short moment shared between Pulham and Helen Keller.

i loved everything about the book -- with one caveat. Really more advice. Don't let your mind wander. You won't want to miss any of the hidden gems.

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20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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