“Larson, Eric. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness. Narr. Scott Brick. Books on Tape, 2006. Overdrive. Web. 1 November 2012. Bibliomation.lib.com.
Summary: This book tells two true stories that paralleled each other in time and place. One is the story of a serial killer during the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the other is of the building of the World’s Fair. Larson writes in a manner that keeps you sitting at the edge of your seat. He describes in detail the personalities and their relationships with each other. Although the two main characters, Herman Webster Mudgett and Daniel Burnham never meet, they are inexplicably intertwined. Mudget AKA H.H. Holmes uses the fair’s existence to lure young women to his hotel which is designed with a gas chamber and crematorium. He surrounds himself with people who unwittingly help him to discard the bodies. Daniel Burnham and John Root are the architects selected to build the fair. They end up working with and befriending such notables as Fredrick Olmstead and Frank Loyd Wright. Larson writes in a way that has you believing that you are reading an historical novel, but all is true. He makes history come alive and delivers this tale with full geographical and historical background of both people and places. I recommend this book for anyone who likes suspenseful mysteries and American history.
Ridiculously Simple Synopsis: Serial killer makes his rounds during the building of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Curriculum Connection: Study of American History. Students can compare technology in the late 1890’s and today related to whether Mudget would be able to murder so many people today and why or why not. Why was the fair so successful, considering the economic environment in the U.S. at the time. Compare the personalities of Burnham and Holmes.
Reading Level: High School
Awards: 2003 New York Times best seller (nonfiction), 2003 International Horror Guild Award (Nonfiction), 2003 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, 2003 National Book Award (Nonfiction), finalist, 2003 CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction, shortlist, 2003 Great Lakes Book Award (Nonfiction), finalist, 2004 Washington State Book Award, 2004 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, 2004 Edgar Award (Best Fact Crime), winner, 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Honor Book, winner, 2009 ALA Outstanding Books for the College Bound (History & Cultures)
Genre: History, non-fiction
Herman Webster Mudget: AKA H.H. Holmes (among other pseudonames) who is the serial killer.
Clara A. Lovering: Holmes's first wife who he married in New Hampshire
Myrta Z. Belknap: Holmes's second wife
Lucy Holmes: Myta and Holmes's daughter
Georgiana Yoke: Holmes's third wife
Julia Smythe: Ned Connor’s wife who becomes Holmes’ lover and becomes pregnant
Ned Connor: Julia Sythe’s husband and eventual owner of pharmacy in Holmes building
Benjamin Pitezel: Holme’s assistant and victim
Frank Geyer: Detective who investigates the missing Pitezel children
Thomas W. Barlow: assistant district attorney who prosecuted Holmes
Daniel Burnham: Chief architect of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893
John Root: Daniel Burnham’s partner and very close friend
George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.: Created the first “Ferris Wheel” for the fair
Frederick Law Olmsted: In charge of the landscape design for the fair.