The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

The full name of this book is: “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America.” It’s quite a mouthful, and it covers an equally complex topic.

It’s actually two stories in one, interwoven into a common theme–the World’s Fair of 1893. There are still world fairs, but they don’t occur every year, and they’re nowhere near as dazzling as the one of 1893. The term “White City,” comes from the appearance of this city within a city (Chicago) at night. Common household electricity had just come on the scene, and this was the first time the public had seen so many light bulbs at one time. It was so brilliant at night, that it was coined “The White City.”

The other story I referred to was the fact that a serial killer had taken advantage of the vast crowds that were visiting Chicago by kidnapping and killing several young women who had moved into town, either to see the fair, or to take jobs that were created by the influx of people.

I won’t tell you how the stories are interwoven–the author does a superb job. I really liked this book, and I can see why it’s such a popular seller. The two things that stick out in mind after reading it, is that it was too magnificent in scope to have been true (but it was), and how amazing it is that the author saw the potential in tying these stories together.

It’s truly an “electrifying” book.


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