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Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

I don’t normally read a lot of nonfiction, except memoirs (which I love), but this book was highly recommended by a friend, so I gave it a shot. Plus, I was intrigued by the book-cover descriptions that referred to the book as a nonfiction novel – which made me think of Capote’s In Cold Blood or something like that – and hopefully not some dry textbook that, while most likely educational and probably edifying to my soul, might be just plain boring.

And, thankfully, I was right, and my friend’s recommendation was spot on.

Yes, Erik Larson offers extensive research to recreate the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, bookending his account a few years before and after this major event in American history. And, yes, this story alone is worthy of an entire book by an author or Larson’s talent. But he did more; he made it fascinating. I was learning (gasp!) and was also thoroughly entertained at the same time.

The story deals with, along with many other topics, genius. The first is Daniel Burnham, the architect who builds the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. And the other is H.H. Holmes, evil but no less a genius, one of the first known serial killers in the United States (with a “murder castle” of horrors) who exploits the fair to find his victims. (There’s a third smaller but still important plotline about Patrick Eugene Prendergast who assassinates popular mayor Carter Harrison, Sr. before the fair is through). We also meet a lot of other geniuses throughout the book from Frederick Olmstead, George R. Davis, G. Brown Goode, Francis David Millet, Ferris (famous Ferris Wheel designer) to Kodak to Buffalo Bill Cody and many, many more, who all helped pulled off this historic event.

There’s not much more to say without spoiling the book, except that I found the first half of the book more educational and the second half of the book more entertaining (and much easier to read). If I have one complaint (a big one), it’s that Larson didn’t discuss Frank Geyer enough – Geyer is the genius detective, from the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency, whose relentless determination in getting his man led to an epic cross-country investigation that ends the book with a much bigger bang than I ever expected. Geyer deserves his own book!

Nonetheless, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is an excellent read that makes learning fun.

Books by Frank Mundo

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Jim Butcher, bestselling Dresden Files author, comes to town Saturday; Read chapter one of Changes

On Saturday, April 10 at 3:00 pm, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jim Butcher will be reading and signing Changes, Book 12 in his hit urban noir fantasy series, The Dresden Files at

Barnes and Noble
7881 Edinger Ave., Bella Terra
Huntington Beach
(714) 897-8781

About the Book
The Dresden Files are set in an alternate “magical” Chicago. Our hero, a wizard and wisecracking private investigator, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, takes on the magical establishment and the Chicago police in fast-paced adventures that are both compelling and funny.

In Changes, the twelfth installment of what the author says could be up to twenty or more books in the series, Harry is reunited with ex-girlfriend, Susan Rodriguez, a half-vampire (until she feeds on a human), who, after nearly ten years, returns with a powerful bloodlust and a life-changing revelation for Harry that kicks off his latest adventure…

Check out the first chapter of Changes by Jim Butcher below, courtesy of Jim Butcher and Roc Books (Penguin Group).  

Read Chapter One at LA Books Examiner.

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