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am 24. Februar 2011
In 1893, Chicago was gearing up for its shining moment on the international stage. The city had been selected to host the World's Fair, beating out New York and a number of other American contenders. A prominent local architect, Daniel Burnham, had taken the reins to organize and construct the massive project. He assembled a dream team of architects, landscapers, engineers, and other professionals to help pull the fair together. Certainly Chicago could outdo the Paris Fair, which had been a worldwide success years earlier.

Unfortunately for Burnham and his team, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Due to a lack of organization and bickering among the committees responsible for the fair, construction began far later than it should have. Partially completed buildings blew over and burned down. Union workers threatened strikes. One sideshow act showed up a year early, while another (which was believed to be made up of cannibals) killed the man sent to retrieve them and never showed up at all. And there was a monster on the loose. A man who used the chaos of Chicago at this time in history to conceal the murders of dozens of people - many of them young, single women. A man who constructed a building with stolen money, then used the building as a slaughterhouse to lure, kill, and dispose of his victims.

THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY is a terrific book. It is nonfiction, but it reads like a novel. The real-life details of this story seem almost too bizarre to be true, yet this is one example of the old saying that "truth is stranger than fiction." The author, Erik Larson, even includes a lengthy section at the back where he documents his facts and explains his suppositions.

The book's chapters alternate between the World's Fair and the exploits of serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes. I found myself enjoying both stories, as they ran parallel throughout the book. The Herculean task of putting together the fair in record time was fascinating, and the sociopathic actions of Dr. Holmes were chilling. It made for a brilliant contrast - just when the frustrations of the Fair seemed overwhelming, the book switched to Dr. Holmes as he lured yet another young woman into his web. And just when Dr. Holmes' evil seemed too much to bear, the chapter would end and the reader would be back at the World's Fair dealing with political back stabbing, instead of Holmes' more literal variety.

I rarely read nonfiction, but this book came highly recommended to me, so I gave it a try. I'm so glad I did, too. It offers a wonderful historical perspective on Chicago and the world near the close of the 19th century. For a Chicago-area native like me, its frequent mentions of famous local names, like Burnham and Adler and Marshall Field, that still grace street signs and the sides of buildings, were an added treat. Just a brief word of warning, though: it does contain some of the dreaded "adult themes." Some of Dr. Holmes' crimes are described - although not too graphically - and they might be upsetting for "younger or more sensitive" readers.

I strongly recommend THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY to anyone who enjoys an engrossing, well-written story, whether they normally read fiction or nonfiction. In particular, if readers have a book report in school, this book should be considered. It makes history come alive.

Reviewed by: K. Osborn Sullivan
0Kommentar| 3 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich. War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?JaNeinMissbrauch melden
am 12. April 2011
Inhalt: siehe Produktbeschreibung

Sprache: nicht ganz unanspruchsvolles Englisch. Obwohl ich sagen würde ich spreche fließend Englisch musste ich alle paar Seiten ein Wort nachschlagen. Aber so lernt man wenigstens dazu :)

Stil: Larson erweckt den Zeitgeist, die historische Begebenheit und die erfundenen Teile (die sich aber in engen Grenzen halten, sehr viel steht in Anführungszeichen und ist so lt. Autor schriftlich belegt) mit Leichtigkeit zum Leben. Nur die dramatisch abgegrenzten Schlusssätze am Ende eines Kapitels, die auf künftige Geschehnisse verweisen ohne diese konkrekt zu verraten werden zu häufig bemüht. Im Stile von "Little did he knew that this would ultimately seal is fate."

Meinung: Der enge historische Bezug zu einem gesellschaftlichen Ereignis von weltweiter Tragweite, das gemeinhin wenig nur noch wenig bekannt ist und das distanzierte Portrait eines absolut durchgeknallten Massenmörders machen The Devil in the White City zu einem lehrreichen Pageturner.
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am 16. Juni 2011
I love the structure of the book, alternating the chapters and subsequently the lives of the architect and the killer.

What surprised me most was that I had never heard of the Chicago fair since it had such an influence on our modern culture, the concept of landscape gardening and parks, and quality of life in cities, the invention of the Ferris wheel to even Shredded Wheat.

It was a truly amazing achievement and it is so sad it is forgotten. The story is not mainly about the killer but in the context of when he killed, the living conditions in Chicago, the crime, the dirt, the poverty which allowed him to do this. This was the first time that women started to leave for cities for work alone. It is also the story of a group of men who dedicated a few years of life to the project and the ordinary men who died building it.

I am also totally astonished i had never heard of this serial killer, since he planned everything so carefully, even building his own crematorium in his cellar!

This is a story worth reading.
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am 26. März 2006
One of these books where you wonder why you have never heard of any part of the story: the Chicago Columbian Exposition (World Expo, we would call it today, I guess) is one of the more forgotten ones outside the US. The mass murders of one Mr Holmes (the most frequently used name, there were others) must also have gotten lost under more illustrious cases such as those by Jack the Ripper or the more recent ones. But the book, let's give it that, manages to convey the feeling for the bigness and also in a way the greatness of both events. The way America was expecting something that would cast a shadow over the glorious Paris World Expo and its Eiffel Tower, the way American cities tried everything they could, at the same time, to keep each other from getting the deal, the jealousy among the architects and the ridiculous elephantiasis of committees and administration that almost kept the fair from happening. If you step back a bit and look at the issue from the distance, you will not see anything that would be very extraordinary in the course of preparation for such a huge event. Setbacks and small catastrophes. Casualties and missed deadlines. Spectacular innovations (Ferris Wheel) and incredulity towards its realisation. Erik Larson manages to draw you inside, however, and allows you to get a feeling for the huge task at hand, how unlikely it appears that one person (Burnham, the chief architect) should bear this responsibility. The psycopathic killer story, in contrast to that, sounds too much like a thing out of an Amazon bestseller list thriller, it never evokes the same feeling of realism, of being near. You somehow expect a more tense storyline there, with an elaborate detective character chasing the beast and hunting it down - but this expectation is disappointed, because in reality, things don't usually work out that way... It can be argued that the book had been more intense, more straightforward, more thrilling, had it restricted itself to the White City. As it is, the book is a bit too long for comfort, but an interesting read nonetheless.
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am 12. April 2013
Ein absolut faszinierendes Buch, das einem die Zeit der Jahrhundertwende in Chicago nahebringt. Auch ohne den Plot des psychopathischen Frauenmörders hochinteressant. Wer einen klassischen Krimi erwartet, könnte enttäuscht sein, wer offen dafür ist, ein Stück Zeitgeschichte zu erleben, den wird die Fülle der Informationen und die lebendige Schreibweise sicher begeistern.
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am 24. Februar 2013
Zeigt die Höhen und Tiefen der menschlichen Existenz! Wahnsinnig bis genial.
Durch einen Tip auf Erik Larson aufmerksam geworden. Ein guter Erzähler!
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am 24. August 2009
Liest man Titel und Umschlag, so denkt man es handelt sich um einen Krimi mit historischer Vorlage. Dem ist leider nicht so. Das Hauptaugenmerk des Autors liegt nicht auf dem Serienmörder H.H Holmes, sondern auf der Weltausstellung in Chicago. Mit der Akribie des Historikers erläutert der Autor die Planung und Durchführung dieses gigantischen Vorhabens. Diese Akribie verhindert jedoch, dass die Protagonisten lebendig wirken oder einem ans Herz wachsen. Das ist auch der Grund, wieso dieser Teil des Buches schlichtweg langweilig ist.
Mich interessierte vor allem die Geschichte um den Unhold Holmes. Leider geht Larson nur in einem kleinen Teil wirklich auf diese Morde ein. Er schildert kurz und knapp die Morde und das Vorgehen von Holmes und verwendet ausschließlich historisch gesicherte Fakten. Auch, wie die Polizei schließlich dem Mörder auf die Schliche kommt, wird sehr nüchtern erzählt ohne, dass je ein Spannungsbogen entsteht.
Wer einen historischen Krimi mit spannender Handlung erwartet wird hier bitter enttäuscht. Ein interessanteres Buch ist sicher Arthur & George von Julian Barnes, in dem ein historischer Kriminalfall spannend erzählt wird.
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