lulugirl297's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark informative mysterious tense medium-paced

3.5


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ornateapple's review against another edition

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dark informative mysterious sad slow-paced

3.0


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kellyofcali's review against another edition

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dark informative slow-paced

3.75

This is a well written book that crosses two related subjects - one, the world's fair, and two, a serial killer. I found both interesting, which means he did a good job, though I did find it dragged on a little long towards the denouement of both storylines. It's also a little confusing what is real vs. not, though I know that bothers some people more than others.

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camilleion's review against another edition

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informative inspiring slow-paced

4.0

90% architectural history, 10% true crime.

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headachesince03's review against another edition

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adventurous dark informative inspiring mysterious tense slow-paced

4.5


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bookbelle5_17's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional informative reflective sad tense slow-paced

4.5

Review of The Devil in the White City
By: Erik Larson
            This work of non-fiction is the history of Chicago’s World’s Fair and the killing spree of Dr. H.H. Holmes.  When I looked at other reviews of this, I noticed it had mixed opinions.  Either people hated it, thought it was okay, or loved it and I’m more in the loved it category.  I do see the criticism that people gave it.  The book does feel like two novels in one and one aspect of the history of Chicago in the 1890s is more dominant than the other in this novel.   Larson spends most of the book telling the reader the history of the World’s Fair.  The city of Chicago had to fight for the privilege of being the U.S. World’s Fair location, as New York thought they were the better choice for it.  Even St. Louis wanted to be the city where the fair happened.  There were a lot of firsts that came from the fair like Shredded Wheat and the Ferris Wheel, which was trying to achieve the impact that the Eiffel Tower had.  The Pledge of Allegiances started at the fair, as well.  People fell in love with this American venture, but there many problems that came about with this ambitious task.  Daniel Burnham, the father of this White City, the nickname of the fair, was a difficult boss to work for and demanded things be done his way.  Many of the people who worked on fair had experienced illness, and Burnham’s friend and partner Root died before the fair even started.  Not everything was ready by opening day and they struggled to make enough money from the fair.   This history is juxtaposed with the H.H. Holmes story.  The resources on Holmes are limited, but from little Larson gathered he was able to put together a narrative on Holmes meeting his victims and how he kills them.  He is charming and charismatic making it is easy for him to seduce his victims and con his way out of the various debts he finds himself in.  This frustrated me, because it allowed him to get away with all the atrocious acts he was committing, and he takes sadistic pleasure (even taking the same pleasure he would feel when aroused) in getting away with it.  He even wrote his own memoir.  I’m not an expert but he comes off as narcissistic and delusional.  He practically built his own Empire as he bought several businesses such as a drug store and a hotel.  If you are reading Devil in the White City because of Holmes and thinking he’ll be connected to fair he’s actually not.   A loose connection might be that Holmes used the fair to his advantage.  It was a distraction for his victims and allowed him access to more.  He built the hotel as place his eventual victims could stay and he could eventually kill in way that he could do it without getting his hands dirty.  Hearing about how he set it up and the police eventually investigating the place is disturbing to read about as its described in detail.   I actually enjoyed reading about parts on the fair.  It was cool to read about the history of the Chicago’s World’s Fair and learning the challenges it faced, as well as its cultural impact.  I was morbidly fascinated with the Holmes chapters, especially since my only awareness of him was from him being in an episode of “Supernatural” as a ghost.  I think the author was trying to compare the journeys of Holmes and Burnham.  Holmes was murdering people at the same time that Burnham was trying bring this positive experience to life, and it highlights the different sides of Chicago.

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lauramcc7's review against another edition

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I just couldn’t do it anymore. Entirely too much talk of architecture, soil make up, and insurance fraud for my taste.

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reddeddy's review against another edition

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dark informative mysterious sad tense slow-paced

4.0


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smkelly1997's review against another edition

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dark informative slow-paced

3.5

I thought this book would revolve around H. H. Holmes much more than it did. Instead it was mostly about the creation, construction, and running of the fair. 

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librarymouse's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark emotional informative mysterious sad tense medium-paced

3.75

The literary descriptions and firsthand accounts of the fair, and the effort and love put into it's design and creation made me wish I could have attended. The detailed descriptions of Holmes' murders and his disarmingly charming personality made me glad that I was born over a full century after 1893. I like greatly enjoyed The Devil in the White City, the second half was a far easier read than the first. I'm not sure if I've retained as much of the information about the fair's designers and the events that took place while it was open as I wanted to. While interesting, the section about the initial design process and the political lobbying that took place in order to get the fair to occur in Chicago read similarly to a textbook, in stark contrast with the narrative way the rest of the history was told. Overall, an informative and interesting read. I would use enjoyable to describe the writing, but not the content.

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