The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)

Staff Pick Badge
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America By Erik Larson Cover Image

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Paperback)


On Our Shelves Now
On hand as of Jul 10 8:35pm

Staff Reviews

A totally frightening yet utterly transfixing non-fictional narrative that takes place in Chicago of 1893. The White City was architect Daniel Burnham's creation of the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition. The Devil, using the fair as a draw, was murderer H.H. Holmes, a Svengali-type who lured young women to a building near the fairgrounds, where he did horrific things to them before murdering them. Not knowing each other, their simultaneous stories are vividly detailed in this white-knuckle page-turner. With meticulously researched historical facts and people of note at the time, this book is truly stranger than fiction. 

2004 Edgar Award for Best Fact-Crime Writing
No. 1 New York Times bestseller.

— From Vick's Picks (2019-2021)

This historical true crime book takes place around the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (on the 400th anniversary of Columbus's "discovery" of the "New" World). In his unique and vivid way of storytelling, Larson weaves together two Chicagos—two Americas—into one time and space.

The first Chicago is the Chicago of opulence and progress. A team of planners, designers, architects, landscapers, and politicians feverishly prepare for the world's fair. They seek to solidify Chicago as an equal to New York City, to Pairs and London. The second Chicago is manifested in serial killer H. H. Holmes as he stalks his victims. Holmes builds a project of his own—a thoughtfully designed space to murder his victims.


— From Brittni

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Splendid and the Vile comes the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death. 

“As absorbing a piece of popular history as one will ever hope to find.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. 

Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into the enchantment of the Guilded Age, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.
Erik Larson is the author of six national bestsellers—The Splendid and the Vile, Dead Wake, In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac’s Storm—which have collectively sold more than ten million copies. His books have been published in nearly twenty countries.
Product Details ISBN: 9780375725609
ISBN-10: 0375725601
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: February 10th, 2004
Pages: 464
Language: English
Series: Vintage
“Engrossing . . . exceedingly well documented . . . utterly fascinating.” —Chicago Tribune

“A dynamic, enveloping book. . . . Relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel. . . . It doesn’t hurt that this truth is stranger than fiction.” The New York Times

"So good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already." —Esquire

“Another successful exploration of American history. . . . Larson skillfully balances the grisly details with the far-reaching implications of the World’s Fair.” USA Today

“As absorbing a piece of popular history as one will ever hope to find.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Paint[s] a dazzling picture of the Gilded Age and prefigure[s] the American century to come.” Entertainment Weekly

“A wonderfully unexpected book. . . Larson is a historian . . . with a novelist’s soul.” Chicago Sun-Times