Erik Larson’s work is an exemplary example of an educational tale filled with history, criminal affairs, and America’s belle epoch- that is perfect for mass appeal. The Devil in the White City details Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1983 from its Government backing, corporate starts, architecture, cronyism, and the like. American history during this period is largely missed in general schooling, but it remains the period that fostered the gilded age, the strength of steel and rail, skyscrapers, the Ferris Wheel, labor unions, and America’s rise to Global power. The book doesn’t run like a textbook but uses a personal narrative to match events.
The main draw though is the serial killer story that serves as a dichotomy to the World’s Fair, lurking in the midst of a naive society unfamiliar with the psychotic. Larson delves into this arena with strong data/information to produce a thought-provoking page turner. In comparison to Douglas Starr’s Killer of Little Shepherds, Larson’s work lacks the deeper treatment of forensic science, psychological profiles, and gritty descriptors. The wealth of information available on the World’s Fair is tremendous compared to that on serial killer H.H. Holmes, making the work a bit imbalanced. At any rate, The Devil in the White City became a book I couldn’t put down and had to finish with the quickness.