I’d picked this up for the read-a-thon but didn’t get around to it (I blame that entirely on In the Woods, both for its mind-boggling length and for its spleeny creepiness). By the time I finally did crack it, school was in full give-us-papers-or-die-trying swing, so I never got to do a good sit-down read. Usually, that makes a book (esp. a non-fic one about architecture) all patchy and hard to get into, but TDITWC:MMAMATFTCA (HA!) surprised me with its easy readability.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America – Erik Larson
Let’s just come out now and say that serial killers give me the heebs. It’s one thing to know they’re out there, and another thing entirely to know exactly what they’re up to. I can’t stand it when authors think we want to read about torture and junk. Dude, those people are out seeing Saw V or watching Dexter. Larson, bless his heart, glosses over as much of the explicit flesh-carving as is possible. What? Flesh-carving? I thought this was about architecture.
Ok, so back in the late 1800s, Paris had this World Fair and it was awesome. So the ‘Mericans wanted to have theyselves a World Fair, and Chicago won the draw. Most of The Devil etc. is about Chicago’s attempt to throw together an even better World Fair in, like, 2 years. Setbacks abounded, key figures kept dying (not of suspicious causes. Mostly of stress, or gout) and buildings collapse willy-nilly. There is loads of triumphing and heaps of small-but-savvy men making big. It’s inspiring.
But also, there’s a rampaging murderer. And what with all the dewy, blooming young country girls flooding into Chicago to take advantage of all the new stenographing opportunities, a charismatic killer’s job is only too easy. Henry Holmes builds himself a hotel ostensibly to exploit all the Fair visitors, but with a suspicious number of sound-proof vaults and dissecting rooms. That’s…enough of that.
So! Mostly about buildings, partially about slaughterings, surprisingly good. Happy L’allorween.