Friday, April 23, 2010

The Devil in the White City, Part II

I'm almost halfway through the book, and I'm horrified by Dr. H.H. Holmes sadistic, cold-blooded killings. I still haven't learned what his motives are for killing women. Eric Larson's description of him is similar to the descriptions of Ted Bundy--a charmer who is irresistible to women but a serial killer nonetheless. So far Holmes has killed at least two women and a child. Another woman left Chicago abruptly, unwilling to say why except she didn't want to talk about Holmes. She went home to Iowa and died there. I suspect Holmes poisoned her. He was a trained physician and knew how to kill without using weapons.
The Columbian Exposition--actually, its proper title is World's Columbian Exposition--is progressing faster than I thought it could. The number of buildings and their detailed construction defies credibility, but Burnham pushed ahead, determined to show the world that America, specifically Chicago, could accomplish the established goals.
I am impressed with some of the names associated with the Exposition--Thomas Edison, Elias Disney and Frederick Law Olmstead, landscape designer of New York's Central Park and Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.
This book contains biography, history, suspense, murder and intrigue. I've talked to some people who didn't want to read all the details of the developing Exposition, but as the story unfolds, I don't want to skip one word!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Devil in the White City, Part I

I grew up in the Chicago area--Joliet, Ill. to be exact--and I learned that many innovations were introduced at the Columbian Exposition, which commemorated Christopher Columbus' discovery of America 400 years earlier. Erik Larson's "The Devil in the White City" casts a perspective on the Exposition that I never realized existed.
Larson starts with the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris, which set the wheels in motion for the United States to top that World's Fair. Architect Daniel Burnham, who is credited with not only the design of Chicago but for preserving land throughout the Chicago area to be used for recreation--hiking, picnicking and other family activities, is at the core of this book as is his partner, John Wellborn Root. Another figure, Herman Mudgett aka Dr. H.H. Holmes, is a person whose name I never heard before. He's the antagonist in juxtaposition to Burnham, Root,, the heroes in the story.
The book reads like a novel, but it's all true, and what truth Larson provides!
Be assured that Holmes, who copied his name presumably from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective, Sherlock Holmes, is not in search of justice for the downtrodden or misunderstood.
He may be classified as a psychopath, but he is likable. He charms women and they fall under his spell. As I continue my journey through this book, I hope to uncover the reason for his behavior and how he managed to ignore the value of life.