The Devil In The White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America - Tony Goldwyn, Erik Larson

I'm not going to spend much time describing The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson. This book came out in 2003 and there are thousands of reviews out there about it. Generally it's an in depth look at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. This book gets into the making of the fair what happened during the fair and how the fair influenced America. It also follows a serial killer who used the fair to take advantage of victims. 


This is a fascinating book and it reads like two books in one. The story of the fair and the story of the serial killer are told in alternating chapters. Devil In The White City examines the mind of a notorious serial killer. What I found fascinating was how he came across as charming to so many people but behind the scenes people close to him were never seen again. He had multiple wives and took out insurance policies on people who he killed and then collected the money. It's amazing to me how someone who proves he has no soul can get so many people to trust him.


At first I felt that the story of the serial killer was much more interesting then the fair but as I kept reading I found the story of the fair being more interesting. The amount of effort and money that went into the fair was astronomical. More than 7 people died in the creation of the fair and the creators also had to put up with storms damaging the buildings, union workers striking and finally low attendance as the U.S. started to go through a depression as several large banks failed. 


Another thing I liked in this book was the descriptions of Chicago at the turn of the century. The city was growing in leaps and bounds but many people were poor and unable to support themselves. As the city's first skyscrapers were changing the city's skyline the Chicago stockyards were making the whole city smell like poop and the threat of cholera was always present. 


You could describe the period of Chicago's history that this book covers as The Best Of Times and The worst of Times. This is a great example of what life was like right before the turn of the century and how different life was. If you love history this book is a must read.