History, suspense combine in ‘The Devil in the White City’
Special to the Daily
In “The Devil In The White City” author Eric Larson takes history and writes it into a novel that will appeal to both fans of history and readers who enjoy a little suspense.
This is the true story of the Chicago World’s Fair taking place at the end of the 19th century. Amid the fair’s activities, it is also the story of two men; one a famous architect and the other a doctor of sorts, with the dualistic nature of also being one of the most prolific serial killers in history.
The World’s Columbian Exposition was the official title of the World’s Fair that took place in Chicago in 1893. The fair’s official purpose was to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering America. The architecture of much of the fair seemed to cry out for the name, The White City, as the fairgrounds became commonly referred to in conversation. This fair was also a chance for Chicago to establish itself as a location of national pride while competing for international recognition as, at the very least, an equal with Paris, which had hosted the previous World’s Fair.
The fair in Paris had unveiled the Eiffel Tower to the world. The Chicago fair would give the world the Ferris Wheel, along with smaller but famous products such as Cracker Jacks and Shredded Wheat cereal. Chicago competed fiercely with New York for the honor and the enormous responsibility of developing such an event. The boastfulness of Chicago’s leading businessmen prompted New York editor Charles Anderson Dana to nickname Chicago “The Windy City.”
In the shadow of the fair and temporary city that architect Daniel H. Burnham was building, Dr. H.H. Holmes seized the opportunities the fair provided him, not the least of which were the overwhelming numbers of women who had come to the city alone seeking a new start through the fair. The opportunities were there for the doctor to feed his seemingly insatiable desire for murder in a relatively anonymous environment.
Much of what we learn of Dr. Holmes’ activities are told through the reflections of the people who interacted with him during this period. His sordid activities included purchasing large quantities of chloroform and building a gas kiln, perfectly sized for cremation, in the lower regions of his hotel.
I do not want to give away too many details as the details are a big part of what makes the reading of this true story so enjoyable. The author, Eric Larson, actually sums the story up very well in his quote; “In the end it is a story of the ineluctable conflict between good and evil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black.”
This book is available at Weber’s Books on Main Street in Breckenridge marketing manager Larry Ebersole is available at the store or by e-mail at Amentalengineer@cs.com.
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