This book was both fascinating and frightening. Erik Larson ties together a story about an architect and a serial killer and how their lives orbited around the 1893 Chicago Fair.
The descriptions of the fair were amazing. I knew nothing of it before reading this book. The collection of architects, designers, and manpower that went into building the fair was astounding. Especially when you realize it was all to be taken down soon after the fair closed.
The fair did a lot, and perhaps mostly in the way it galvanized and inspired a nation. One mention in the book that stood out was the Elias Disney was a construction worker at the fair. His descriptions of the magic of the city to his son Walt may well have influenced the Walt Disney World and EPCOT Center we know today.
But for every heaven, there’s a hell, and that came in the form of a serial killer, H.H. Holmes, who preyed on young women coming to Chicago for the excitement of the fair. Holmes built a multi-story building of terror that included a dissection table, a gas chamber, and a crematorium. This sick man used his charm to swindle, seduce, and kill multiple people.
There was a macabre fascination in reading about Holmes. The entire time I was wondering how he was going to get caught, if he was going to repent, or if he would ever understand the extent of his crimes. Most of that is covered in the book, which made for exciting reading.
In all, the book would have been utterly intriguing based solely on the information about the White City of the Chicago fair. The inclusion of the serial killer made it frighteningly irresistible.