The Devil in the White City Study Guide

The Devil in the White City Study Guide

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

As other famous works of Erik Larson, “The Devil in the White City” is based on the real historical events that the author studied carefully. He filled them with a new sense and perspective and turned the dry historical facts and personalities into living, breathing characters. Two plotlines - one of the Devil and the other of the main architect of the White City are tightly interwoven with each other. Neither Daniel H. Burnham, bringing to life his most ambitious project of the World’s Columbian Exposition, nor H. H. Holmes, who uses the Exposition to hide amongst the newly emerged infrastructure for tourists and murder his new victims, know about each other. Still, the book leaves the feeling of a duel between them: not between the actual people but the very metaphorical concepts of creation and destruction.

Daniel has to stand against the impossible odds to succeed with his project. Sometimes it seems that the fate itself is playing against the architect. The Exposition soon nicknamed as “The White City” isn’t only the triumph of American science and industrial progress - it is also the triumph of a single man, able to change his plans lightning-fast, invent new ways to reach the goal on the spot and excel in crisis management while the very sky is collapsing above his head.

The second hero of the book, a serial killer calling himself Mr. H. H. Holmes, shares this trait with Daniel. He is also capable of changing his plans and searching for the new routes, but his goal isn’t so noble. He comes to Chicago to find new victims among the tourists gathering to see the Exposition. The mess that always happens on the events of such a scale, covers his dark deeds perfectly and it seems that no one will figure out why and where the people start to disappear…

The book is an excellent detective story and its unusual narrative style makes it even better. If you are interested in thrilling investigations or want to see the historical events from a fresh point of view - this is definitely your book!

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