THE AUTHOR: Erik Larson
This is one extremely difficult book to get into, and I’m not the only one to say so. I put the book down at least five times because I just couldn’t get myself to commit to reading it. Then I just jumped in and made myself get started because the cover jacket sounded very interesting, and after I had read about four chapters — WOW!
This is a story about The 1892 Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer. It compares the White City with the Black City — both aspects of Chicago. It uses a back-and-forth format, discussing the fair until you get very involved, and then abruptly jerking you back into the world of the serial killer. You then get deep into the life of the serial killer, and are suddenly jerked back into the exciting world of the fair. It is all sequential, but there are so many names that you need a directory to keep up with who is who, what they do, and how they fit into the story.
Nonetheless, this is a fantastic book. I promise you that you will not be sorry if you spend your time working through it. It is not a fast read. It will take you time to process what you are reading, and you will find yourself stopping to think about what is going on. It is really a thinking person’s book, not a “beach read.”
And, unfortunately, the story is timeless and extremely relevant to today’s world. This week’s anniversary of 9/11 and several recent Olympic Games remind us that assembling a large group of people — either for a special event, or just on a daily basis — provides a target for criminals of any period in history.
At the time the miraculous and amazing Chicago World’s Fair is taking place, hundreds upon hundreds of lovely, young women become missing. Dr. H.H. Holmes is a handsome man with piercing blue eyes, a man that you would never expect to do anything but good things for people. But the atrocities that you learn he actually committed are unbelievable. These women were killed in awful ways. He carefully selected women that no one would miss and come looking for, or he arranged for them to be going somewhere that no one would be waiting. This was completely terrifying, and marvelously horrifying to read.
The writing in this book is more than stupendous, and if I had one suggestion to give Erik Larson it would be to beef up the first four chapters so they are not so difficult to trudge through. This book is impossible to put down after you really got into it. I read until my eyes crossed and I couldn’t see anymore. I did not want to stop.
The book club and I gave this book “4.5 tiaras.” That is an extremely high rating, but every bit of it was earned and well rewarded (even with the first four chapters).
You will learn so much as you read this book. Little nuances that you never knew or never realized before will become apparent, and you will be very pleased. Rarely do I finish a book and feel such pleasure that I’ve used my time so wisely. So make yourself get past the first four chapters. Do not skip them because you need the information, but get past them. You’ll be so glad that you did.
On another note, Horton’s Book Store let me tag along to Southeastern Independent Book Sellers Alliance, and I had a blast in Naples, Fla. I can’t wait to share all of the books that I got there to read and to review for you, and to have as giveaways.
I want to thank Horton’s for being so gracious and for the wonderful opportunity that they shared with me. Check back next week for the most amazing picture book ever.
Happy Reading and enjoy!
Buice, a Carrollton resident, writes a weekly book review for the Times-Georgian. anita of anitabook.com.