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 1,947 Ratings


This New York Times bestseller intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair 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.

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 a time of magic and majesty, 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.


  • 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 joeharver
    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
  • The World Fair with a Dash of Murder

    By Gotylery
    This book spent more time discussing the world fair, it’s struggles, involved parties and everything that went into it vs Holmes and his murder house.
  • The devil in the white city

    By FCB20180
    Did not expect to be reading a full boring history novel, thought I was going to be reading a thriller
  • Boring

    By rr0688
    FORCED myself to read at least 1/3 of the book since it came highly recommended. Couldn’t go past that without losing complete interest/pull my hair out from boredom. What a waste.
  • An ok book

    By Bookreader19
    I enjoyed the book, but was very disappointed with how much they talked about the fair and not enough about Holmes at all. Even the section about him wasn’t interesting at all. The history part was neat learned some new things but all in all not worth the money I would recommend borrowing it.