The Devil in the White City - Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City

By Erik Larson

  • Release Date: 2004-02-10
  • Genre: United States
Score: 4.5
From 2,438 Ratings


#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Splendid and the Vile comes the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death. 

“As absorbing a piece of popular history as one will ever hope to find.” —San Francisco Chronicle

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.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. 

Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into the enchantment of the Guilded Age, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.


  • Even If It Were Fiction It’d Be Good

    By sheaton 314
    I’ve never read a book that threads history together in a way that feels like a fictional thriller quite like this. This feels like a whole new genre. Couldn’t put it down.
  • Very mediocre

    By E122
    This book had lots of good press, but is a very lame book.
  • Never thought a worlds fair would keep me up at nite reading!!!

    By squidly28890
    Fantastic dramatic historical book! Story lines are parallel but not dependent on each other! Fascinating to think that the events are researched and true! You won’t be disappointed I promise!
  • Terrific

    By tfwalczak
    Read this, if only to gain a strong sense of the background of American architectural influences, some which are present today. Oh- and there is a serial killer in this story. Endlessly fascinating!
  • History lesson and true crime all in one

    By Vickywithay
    Really amazing book with fascinating history of Chicago and the story of a serial killer all in one book. Very compelling read
  • For those who have problem finishing the book

    By Niousha Ebadirad
    Nothing happens if you don’t read the chapters related to Daniel Burnham or Olmsted.
  • Loved this book

    By Mayzd
    Can’t say enough good things about this book.
  • Chicago’s Fair

    By LaughingAloneAtWork
    There was a lot more to the book than a story about Holmes. This may attract you to the book or not. I loved the story of the engineers and architects fighting out the Worlds Fair in Chicago. After reading this book, I went to Central Park and saw Olmsted in its current design. The desires of great men both good and evil was laid before you.
  • Best Book I’ve Ever Read

    By Mckanna11
    This book is written so eloquently. Larson puts you in each scene with such elegance of imagery and language. This story is so enthralling. I’ve read it twice back to back.
  • Very Good

    By Dirty JP