I am not typically a fan of nonfiction. However, when I heard about this book and that it could be the basis for the current season of “American Horror Story,” I knew I had to read it. “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Madness and Magic at the Fair that Changed America” by Erik Larson reads like not one, but two tales.
First, “The Devil in the White City” is the story of Daniel H. Burnham, the architect who is responsible for the building of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Throughout this story, all of the planning and constructing occurs and readers see all of the struggles and accomplishments of Burnham, as well as multiple other people who were there for the fair’s construction.
Second, the novel focuses on pharmacist H.H. Holmes, who acts as a charming doctor to Chicago’s citizens. His dark side, though, is that of a serial killer. This story explores the doctor’s coming to the city and the killing of more than 27 people, mostly young women. Readers learn about the hotel that Holmes used to do horrendous acts and kill his victims. Holmes is known as being America’s first serial killer.
Even though the book is full of facts—Larson definitely did his research on the subject—it is easy to read and it is surprisingly entertaining. Larson takes readers into the lives of all these important people from the time of the World’s Fair. The novel also has a number of pictures that help with the story. I would have liked to see more of the buildings that Burnham created, and maybe even the hotel where the tragic events took place.
There is a rumor that James March, Evan Peters’ character in “American Horror Story: Hotel,” is based on H.H. Holmes. It would make sense, since both March and Holmes are responsible for multiple deaths, all within a hotel. That is what drew me into this book the most; I had to know more about the real serial killer, Holmes, so that I could make comparisons.
For anyone who is a fan of “AHS,” or for anyone who wants to know about the world-changing event, I would recommend trying out this piece of nonfiction, even if the genre may not normally appeal to you. It is interesting, entertaining and easy to read.