Sunday Salon – The Ultimate in True Crime

Back in the eighties and early nineties I was an ardent fan of true crime. It started with Ted Bundy: The Killer Next Door and moved on to other serial killers, domestic tragedies, and mafia leaders. I was starting to think I had a problem! But as they grew more formulaic, becoming light on story and heavy on police reports, my interest gradually faded. Problem solved.

Enter Eric Larson with his brand of true crime. He is scrupulous about fact yet tells a richly detailed story. The Devil in the White City tells the story of two men: serial killer H.H. Holmes (aka Herman Webster Mudgett) and Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the construction of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Amid slow committee decisions, financial problems, and temperamental architects, Burnham built Chicago’s wondrous White City while Holmes was constructing his terrifying dungeon where no one targeted for death left alive. Women, children, and a few men were among his victims.  He killed for profit and for fun. The juxtaposition of building the fair and wanton destruction of humanity was fascinating and kept what was really a rather horrifying story from becoming too dark.

I hope you pick up one of Eric Larson’s books this year. If you don’t want to read something this horrific, and I don’t blame you if you don’t, then try Thunderstruck.  I read this old-fashioned murder mystery years ago and it has none of the horrors of White City. It is set against the invention of wireless telepathy and is really quite interesting.

My review for Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman should be up soon. I hope everyone has a great reading week!


4 Responses

  1. I read lots of true crime back in the eighties…until I started having bad dreams. You are right. This is a wonderfully scary story without causing nightmares.

    Here’s my Sunday Salon: Peaceful.

  2. So right! I loved reading about the fair and how such an extraordinary undertaking could succeed within a narrow framework. I got just enough, not too much scary in between.

  3. I read a lot of those true crime books too…haven’t yet read anything by Erik Larson, but his books are on my list.


  4. I heard a series of podcasts that were based on Devil in the White City (Stuff you missed in history class is the name of the podcast) and went put a hold on the book; hopefully its as good as the podcasts!

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