Devil in the White City: A Brief Overview

Devil in the White City is a captivating non-fiction book written by Erik Larson. It intertwines the true stories of two men who played significant roles in the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893.

Overview of the Book’s Plot

The book primarily focuses on the lives of renowned architect Daniel H. Burnham and the notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes. Burnham, a talented and visionary architect, was responsible for overseeing the construction of the famous White City, the main attraction of the World’s Fair. Meanwhile, Holmes lured unsuspecting victims into his hotel, which he had designed specifically for committing heinous crimes.

The author brilliantly weaves together the stories of these two contrasting characters, showcasing the incredible achievements and the darkest depths of humanity during this pivotal moment in history.

Awards and Accolades

Devil in the White City received widespread acclaim for its exceptional storytelling and meticulous research. The book became a New York Times bestseller and earned several prestigious awards, including:

  • Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime (2004)
  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Adult Nonfiction (2004)
  • ALA Notable Books for Nonfiction (2004)
  • Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice (2003)

Critical Reception

Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City garnered immense praise from critics worldwide. It was lauded for its gripping narrative, meticulous attention to historical detail, and the ability to transport readers to the mesmerizing world of the late 19th century.

The book received accolades from numerous renowned publications, with some of the notable reviews:

“A hugely engrossing chronicle of events public and private. It brings alive a forgotten chapter of American history with narrative skill and social perception reminiscent of the best historical fiction.” – The New York Times

“Larson’s gift for rendering an historical era with vibrant humanity makes Devil in the White City irresistible.” – The Washington Post

Key Characters

Devil in the White City introduces readers to several noteworthy individuals who played significant roles in the events surrounding the World’s Columbian Exposition. Some key characters include:

  • Daniel H. Burnham: A brilliant architect and the mastermind behind the construction of the World’s Fair.
  • H.H. Holmes (Herman Webster Mudgett): A notorious serial killer who built a hotel designed for murder.
  • Frederick Law Olmsted: A renowned landscape architect responsible for designing the fairgrounds.
  • Frank Geyer: A determined detective who unraveled Holmes’ crimes.

These individuals, among others, bring depth and complexity to the story, making it an enthralling read for those interested in historical accounts and true crime narratives.


Devil in the White City is a compelling book that skillfully captures the essence of the World’s Columbian Exposition and the contrasting lives of Daniel H. Burnham and H.H. Holmes. Larson’s masterful storytelling, extensive research, and ability to evoke the atmosphere of the late 19th century make this book a must-read for history enthusiasts and fans of true crime alike.

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