I honestly don’t know how to review a book like this, but here’s my conclusion — ‘The Devil in the White City’ is an indescribably fantastic book, I am definitely picking up more of Erik Larson’s works in the upcoming months, and I recommend that anyone interested in history or good writing or thrillers or depravity or psychology or crime or architecture (etc, etc) read this (:
In this book, Larson juxtaposes the grim, ghastly tale of a psychopathic serial killer with a lively, bright description of how Chicago’s World Fair was created; and although the two are only tangentially (if that) related, the book works. Even when I’m honestly disturbed and swallowing down bile at one chapter, I know that in the next I will be led to ponder why Man always aspires greater, deeper, higher, brighter, further. And here’s the catch — it’s non-fiction.
Even the most exciting source material to work with can end up bland in the hands of an unsuited writer, but that is certainly not the case here. Larson is remarkably skilled at building tension — a hint here, a brief fact that (to borrow adolescent terminology) ‘blows your mind’, a name-drop that makes you inhale sharply. And this isn’t just theatrics; it’s often about drawing links that seem tenuous or non-existent at first, but that end up forming a web, and proving that his book’s subtitle, ‘…the fair that changed America’, really isn’t that much of an exaggeration. I can’t imagine the amount of research and work that goes into something like this.
In short: Great book, read it.