The Devil in the White City

A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America

    • 4.3 • 2.3K Ratings
    • $13.99
    • $13.99

Publisher Description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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.

“Relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel .... It doesn’t hurt that this truth is stranger than fiction.” —The New York Times

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.

February 10
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

PapaG17 ,

Engrossing book start finish!

Read this book while traveling - couldnt put it down. It's an entertaining blend of history, drama and psychology - historical non-fiction at it's best!

Lonugkwv297 ,


The book is two stories, told in mostly alternating chapters. It is well researched and grippingly told. I had little knowledge of the Chicago Columbian Exposition. I was amazed at the great feat of its creation as well as the tremendous influence it had on everything from snack food to theme parks to architecture in the century to follow. Of course the real life murder story adds an additional dimension that will keep you glued to the pages.

Alfreda G ,

The Devil in the White City

I thought this book was bogged down with way too many details. I loved reading about the World's Fair but did not need to know everything ( and I mean everything) about it. I didn't feel the need to know menus from dinners and suffer through debates about which plants to put on the fairgrounds. It got tedious at times and I just had to put it down. I skipped long sections of this book and still got the whole story. The murder aspect of the book was fascinating and I really wanted more of that. This book could have been cut in half in my opinion.

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