by Julie HaleFebruary, 2004
The Devil in the White City
Providing a peek into the mind of a certified psycho, Larson's chilling bestseller is a work of true-crime reportage that's destined to become a nonfiction classic. In this Gilded Age period piece, Larson expertly reconstructs the stranger-than-fiction events surrounding the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, recounting the complex logistics of its construction and focusing on the bigwigs involved, including eminent architect Daniel Burnham and crotchety genius Frederick Law Olmsted. But the real star here is Dr. H.H. Holmes, a handsome, seductive serial killer who posed as a physician, built the labyrinthine World's Fair Hotel, equipped it with a gas chamber and crematorium, and lured tourists to their deaths. Larson captures perfectly the psyche of his villain the practiced charm, the deviousness, the unnerving ease with which he snuffed out life. The most remarkable thing about this hard-to-believe tale, though, is that every bit of it is true.
A reading group guide is available online at www.vintagebooks.com/read.