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

Reviewed by Deane Barker tags: history, chicago, crime

This is compelling book in a weird format. It’s about two things: (1) the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and (2) a serial killer at work in the city during that time. The two stories are weirdly separate. The killer visits the fair, but doesn’t commit any murders there, so the connection is odd.

But both stories are compelling. The Fair was both a success and a disaster, in different ways, and the serial killer is a remarkable evil man who operated seemingly unconvinced he would ever be caught. This was owing to the time – in today’s world, he wouldn’t have lasted through one murder, but in the last 19th century, young women often just disappeared and no one went looking for them.

The book is short on details of exactly what the murderer did to his victims, and his count of victims is highly disputed. He confessed to 27, others have said 200, but only 9 were ever confirmed.

Again, the format is odd. I never quite understood how the stories were related or why the author chose to write about them both in the same book, but after a while, it didn’t matter because I enjoyed them both so much.

Book Info

Erik Larson
06 18, 2022
  • I have read this book. According to my records, I completed it on September 20, 2019.
  • A hardcover copy of this book is currently in my home library.

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