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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America    by Erik Larson order for
Devil in the White City
by Erik Larson
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The subtitle of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City is 'Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America'. This absorbing depiction of the concept, planning, and construction of the legendary 1893 World's Fair in Chicago is brought to life by the author's meticulous research and engaging writing style. Being, as it were, behind the scenes of the construction of this incredible city makes me wish I had had a chance to visit this fair that left such a mark on America.

Many very famous people either became known because of their contribution to the glory or were already famous in their own right before this and visited the fair, lending their presence to the intense advertising necessary to get the word out about this great venture. One example - Ferris constructed his first famous wheel. How it worked boggles the mind. The number of people involved in building the fair buildings and landscaping the grounds ran into the thousands. Many more thousands came to view the fairgrounds and spent their money to do so even though there was a recession running its course at the time. Many banks failed and yet the funding for the fair remained available.

At the same time as the great pull of this monumental undertaking, someone else was taking advantage of the throngs who arrived in Chicago for the fair. Dr. Mudgett, more commonly known as H. H. Holmes, was weaning likely candidates for his psychopathic desire for murder. The trail that led to his capture is horrible yet fascinating to contemplate. A brutal man with a charming personality, he killed simply for his own pleasure.

Expecting a dull compendium of dry facts, I thanked the person who gave me the book and thought I'd get to it some day. However, I was intrigued by the title and cover and picked it up. I found it very hard to put down. I now have a list of friends and acquaintances waiting to read The Devil in the White City, which is well worth the time.

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