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What to Read: Devil in the White City By Erik Larson, A Review by Bruce Bensetler

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June 01, 2013
What to Read
Bruce Bensettler

A fascinating combination of a murder mystery and a history lesson set in Chicago in the late 19th Century. Erik Larson interweaves the story of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer, with a fascinating account of how the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was conceived and built in two years.

The charismatic Holmes constructed the World’s Fair Hotel as a supposedly safe and inexpensive hotel for single women. Luring young girls coming from the farms looking for the excitement of the city, he tortured and killed as many as 200 people using his own crematorium to dispose of the bodies.

In 1890, Chicago was growing explosively and wanted to prove it rivaled New York as a center of wealth and culture. Following the enormous success of the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, whose centerpiece was the Eiffel Tower, Chicago was determined to match and even exceed it in glamour and scope. Combining a giant wheel 264 feet tall holding 2,160 people created by George Washington Ferris, with buildings and grounds designed by the top architects of the day, it  easily met the vision and goals of the city leaders when it opened on time.
This detailed, 447 page book is well worth reading to get a sense of the time and the mood of the country during the peak of the Westward expansion following the Civil War.
[Review by Bruce Bensettler, DataPlus]

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