The Devil in the White City – Hannah’s Review

Well, the time has come. Another book has come to an end; thankfully, my pages were not as bloody as most of Dr. H.H. Holmes’ patients.

With the title of the novel being The Devil in the White City I expected more Devil and less White City. That is not what I got. The first two-thirds of the book were mostly the beginnings of Burnham’s career and how he changed the shape of Chicago even before the World’s Exposition in 1893. Basically, we read a history of Burnahm with a couple of pages sprinkled in about the history of Holmes. The title sorely mislead me. I would have even been less interested (meaning: asleep) if I had no background in construction. The novel did use some construction jargon and only held my interest because I had actually seen/experience the construction terms used. If the reader has no idea what “concrete pouring” is, they are out of luck.

Anyway, I stuck with Larson because I have an extreme fascination with serial killers. They are ones to be studied so we can try to prevent them from coming into existence in the future. I obviously know this will never happen, but hey, a girl can dream. Dr. Holmes (born Herman Mudgett – not quite a prolific serial killer name) was a compulsive liar, psychopath and the first known serial killer. Reading about his methods was fascinating in a terrifying way. That being sad, there was zero interaction involving both Burnham and Holmes. The stories never intertwined and neither knew of the other’s existence until after the fact. We never even got a quote from Burnham announcing his sorrow to the victims! I understand that this was a non-fiction book, so jeez, Larson could have just made one up for good times sake.

Enough rambling now, I’ll sum myself up. I enjoyed the last 5 or so Holmes chapters. His discovery by the Philadelphia police was an amazing feat for any detective, especially one in 1894. Overall, I would recommend the book to friends, but only if they enjoyed historical novels, especially those heavyset on superfluous facts.

Larson, next time give us a fictional (but based on a true story) account of Holmes at the fair. Having Holmes as the main character in the story would have made for a page-turner and without a doubt, some reservations by all readers the next time they find themselves at the fair.

Favorite Characters: Dr. H.H. Holmes, Detective Geyer, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr
Favorite Quotes: “I was born with the devil in me,” he wrote. “I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing.” -Holmes
“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.” -Burnham

And that’s that.



Filed under Book Review, Hannah

3 responses to “The Devil in the White City – Hannah’s Review

  1. Pingback: H: Book Challenge – Day 11-13 | Untamed Shrews

  2. I just expected more fiction – have you read In the Garden of Beasts?

  3. I recently reviewed this one too. I skipped through some it at the beginning, but I liked the historical architectural bits. I read it for book group and we were divided, some like the murderer bits best, some likes the architect bits best. I suppose the reason why I didn’t like the murderer bit best was because that must have been the part that was most fictional.

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