My first read of 2019 (which really is just a spill-over from 2018) is “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. I must admit this is the first non-fiction book I’ve read in years, that too, a Fact Crime that won an Edgar Award for that category.
I loved this book by Erik Larson. Initially, I picked it up because I was interested to know more about H. H. Holmes but I stayed because the Chicago Fair was also interesting. If you expect the whole book to be purely about H. H. Holmes, then let me tell you now, it is not. In fact, it’s mostly about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago where H. H. Holmes built his horror hotel.
Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
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 a time of magic and majesty, 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. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.
The great thing about this book is that it reads like a fiction novel. It’s informative yet still engaging and interesting. At times, it even manages to be suspenseful. I really enjoyed reading this that it made me realize how much I’ve been missing out on other great non-fiction books which is why I decided to do the whole alternating of fiction and non-fiction reads this year.
So if you’re looking for a non-fiction read, look no further. I am interested to know though if there are books you recommend that is solely about H. H. Holmes. Let me know!
NinthMelody rating: 8.5/10