A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

TRUE CRIME THURSDAY-The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson- Feature and Review


 Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.



The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson is a 2003 publication.


To be clear, this is a true crime book about H. H. Holmes, but it's much more that- it's also about a time, a place, a huge event in history, and those who brought it all together. It's a horrifying story, but also a fascinating one.

Larson is quite something, isn’t he? The research is, of course, phenomenal, but it’s the way he makes history come to life that kept me turning those pages.

The book reads like a novel, which, as we know, is an approach many True Crime authors have mastered, but is a bit harder to pull off when writing about history. Anyone who feels history or nonfiction is too dry should give this book a try!

Larson had me in the palm of his hand and despite my penchant for True Crime, it was the planning and execution of the magnificent World Fair that takes center stage. The architecture, all the vivid details, the people behind the scenes, and the influx of people into the city was just incredible.

But evil was lurking in the background and the fair turned out to be the perfect environment for a serial killer- H. H. Holmes- to be exact.

Holmes was most assuredly the stuff nightmares are made of!! He got away with so much, for such a long time, it was hard to take it all in!! Times were so different back then too- which made it easier for Holmes to con a more trusting public.

Overall, Larson has a unique approach, and a well organized presentation, bringing together two seemingly different subjects, and linking them together in such a way that one can hardly tear themselves away from the pages.

That’s a rare talent for historical writing. I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys true crime and history, of course, but even if you usually prefer fiction, you’ll probably still find this book of great interest!!



Erik Larson is the author of five national bestsellers: Dead Wake, In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac’s Storm, which have collectively sold more than nine million copies. His books have been published in nearly twenty countries.

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