Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"The Devil In The White City" by Erik Larson

To be honest I am not a huge non-fiction reader. My life is non-fiction so when I read for fun I prefer fiction books. This is, however, the second non-fiction book I have read this year! The first one was "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Sloot. A five star book that you should and must buy here! The current book I have been reading is this: "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson. For a couple weeks or so when I get time between family duties and other books I sneak this in. I finally had time to finish today! 

I found this book by searching for info on H.H. Holmes. If you have never heard of Holmes than start researching! I am a true crime fanatic. Mostly in ways of podcasts like Sword & ScaleSerial, and tv shows like Dateline, Snapped, etc. For those who don't know, H.H. Holmes is one of the first documented American serial killers. Around the time of The World's Fair in Chicago, he built and operated a hotel specifically designed so that he could murder (by way of torture- think gas chambers, burn rooms, etc) ,and then try to sell either whole bodies or bleached bone skeletons to medical schools. No joke. Some also believe he might actually be Jack The Ripper. 

This book links the life and happenings of Holmes with a man called Daniel H. Burman- the architect responsible for designing and building The World Fair. He had to overcome so many obstacles to construct the famous " White City" around which the fair was built.  This book will have you searching online to double check and make sure that what you are reading is indeed non-fiction and not some crazy made up crime story.  It tells the lives of these two men. It is all non-fiction. The author does explain that anything between quotation marks comes from letters, memoirs, or other written documents. This book is like two books in one. 

Fact: Architecture, historical politics, and landscape design all bore me. There were a few times in this book where my eyes kind of glossed over and I started skimming the pages to get to something that wasn't boring. Minus half a star for that. The other half star lost was because while both men are interesting (Holmes more so to me than Burman), and they did live near each other, and yes, their lives in some way connected, but this could have been two separate books. By combining the stories the author didn't gain much but lost a lot. I kept waiting for each mans' story to come to union, but they didn't. I think the author should have combined the idea of two types of cleverness found in each man. I think the author was trying to contrast how two men in the same time period, in the same city chose either good or evil to express themselves.  But it was just choppy, and at times confusing when reading these stories together. I am not sure why the author chose these two men together to write a book about.

All in all it was a pretty decent book! Happy Reading! 

*If you are interested in learning more about H.H. Holmes listen to this episode of Sword & Scale Podcast. Episode 30 of S&S interviews and talk to two men, one of whom is the great-great-grandson of H.H. Holmes himself! The other is an author who has spent years researching the links between Jack the Ripper and H.H. Holmes. Good stuff! I hadn't heard of him until listening to this podcast. 

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