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October 13, 2010

A Different Kind of Holmes in the Windy City

The Devil in the White City book review cover Historical novels are personally a little difficult for me to read through as I usually find them rather dry. However, Erik Larson is definitely an author who is a great exception to this rule and he is a master of spinning historical facts into fascinating stories. The Devil in the White City is actually two parallel stories that are happening at the same point in time. On one side we have the tale of how the 1893 World’s Fair came about and on the other the chilling narrative of one of the first serial killers H.H. Holmes. The tale of Chicago’s World Fair is an aspect of the book that is chock full of historical information. We get to see behind the scenes of how this massive enterprise came together and I myself shed a few tears at the ultimate outcome. Previously France had hosted the World Fair and unveiled the Eiffel Tower. Can you guess how Chicago managed to outdo this massive feat? Check your local fair, and you’ll probably find a smaller version of what made the name Ferris so famous. Simultaneously we have the story of H.H. Holmes who seems to be the devil in disguise (hence the title); he is handsome and smooth as butter which makes it easy for him to lure several young women to their doom. What was so eerie to me about him was that he seemed like such a ‘regular guy’ – exactly the kind of person you could trust – but in reality he was a literal mastermind at what he did best: murder. This is a man not to be messed with; he actually creates his own house of horrors where he can annihilate his victims at leisure. The novel also ties very neatly together in the end. The chaos that ruled over Chicago during that time was what made it possible for Holmes to kill without actually being detected. Prepare to be awed and frightened by this story of murder, magic, and madness.