“In Chicago at the end of the nineteenth century amid the smoke of industry and the clatter of trains there lived to men, both handsome, both blue-eyed, and both unusually adept at their chosen skills. Each embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized the rush of America toward the twentieth century.”
– Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City
Three years ago I was in Chicago with my friend and we were staying with this amazing couple that took us into their home, showed us the local haunts and let us watch Glee on their TV. We had an amazing week with them and when it came to an end, I was handed this book along with a recommendation that this was the best book he had ever read. Having just spent a week exploring the amazing city, I started it right away. Despite being a lover of crime, I had avoided true crime like the plague; it’s scary stuff! This one was no exception… I had nightmares for a week!
The World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World Fair) was held in 1893 after three years of frantic preparation. Hundreds and thousands of people flooded Chicago to live amongst the excitement. Two people in particular stood out; a famous architect at the time, Daniel H Burnham became the Director of Works and the leading man in pulling the Fair together. Taking advantage of the Fair was Herman Webster Mudgett, sociopath, psychopath and eventually, serial killer. Using the Fair as a cover, Mudgett – later known as Dr H H Holmes – lured women to his secret lair in order to kill them. The marvellous white city was covering up an incredibly dark force.
As terrifying as this book was, I couldn’t put it down. Larson’s ability to bring Chicago circa 1893 to life is completely captivating! Larson’s research is meticulous in its planning and execution; his writing has the kind of thrilling pace and story telling you expect from the best kind of fiction. It is horrifying, sickening and equally as fascinating. If this is the only true crime novel I ever read, I think I have been pretty lucky! You should definitely add this one to your reading pile!