Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Devil in the White City

While in Vegas, J. loaned me an interesting little book titled, "The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America," by Erik Larson. From the cover:

"Bringing Chicago circa 1893 to vivid life, Erik Larson's spellbinding bestseller intertwines the true tale of two men - the brilliant architect behind the legendary 1893 World's Fair, striving to secure America's place in the world; 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."

The book was brilliant. I hardly knew anything about the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, nor did I know anything about the grisly murders perpetrated by H. H. Holmes during and after the time of the great fair. To say that I learned a great deal from this novel would be an understatement. It was clear to me that Larson took great care to try to get the facts correct in what I can only describe as a work on non-fiction events that are laced with a fictitious narrative.

Basically two stories are juxtaposed together in the same city at the same time, that of Holmes, a Chicago equivalent to Jack the Ripper, and Daniel Burnham, the architect who lead the massive teams to get the great fair opened on time. As sensational as the tale of Holmes and his murders were, I found myself drawn to and enjoying more the tale of building the great exposition, from the planing and development phase through to the opening and closing of the fair. I cannot say with any skill how fascinating this little piece of Chicago and American history was to me. It is amazing how many innovations were used at this time which had become common place in America in the next century.

Highest recommendation, one of the best and most interesting books I've read this year.

No comments: