8.20.2010

THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: MURDER, MAGIC, AND MADNESS AT THE FAIR THAT CHANGED AMERICA - Erik Larson

I was on my way home from Chicago a few years ago and had a stop over in Sea-Tac. With time to kill, I wandered into one of the only open stores and started browsing through the books and magazines on display. For some reason I picked up this book and impulsively bought it. It was after dark and I was barreling along the highway on a greyhound bus listening to some of my favourite music when I cracked it open.

In retrospect, this was not perhaps the most appropriate environment in which to embark on a journey into the life and mind of one of the most disturbed psychopaths America has ever hosted. It did, however, heighten the atmospheric effect so superbly created by Larson's masterful writing style.

The book intertwines the lives of two men - an architectural genius hard at work on designs for the 1893 World Fair, and a highly ingelligent, deadly efficient serial killer who used the Fair as his own personal hunting ground. Larson's background is in journalism, and the ability to do impeccable research and weave the detailed elements of his chosen subject into an intricate tapestry served him well in the writing of this book.

Despite the growing sense of horror that I experienced as I delved deeper and deeper into this book and these men's lives, I became equally transfixed. I'm not someone who searches out historical accounts, nor was I interested in true crime at that time. I still don't know what drew me to the book, but what I can tell you is that I devoured this book in a manner usually reserved for page-turning thrillers of the John Grisham or Kathy Reichs ilk. It is as easy to read and as suspenseful as the most masterful fictional crime novel, but has a dark undercurrent that will chill you to the bone. Make sure you've got a purring cat, a warm blanket, a fire or a cup of hot chocolate to hand when you curl up with this one - preferably all of the above.

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