Review by Art Trombley
The second story is one I never heard before. It is about H.H. Holmes. He was perhaps the first and most prolific serial killer in American history. I never heard his name before this book. I did not know this story. Jack the Ripper is historically one of the most famous because his crimes were so viscous for their times but Holmes not only murdered more people, but in perhaps more gruesome ways. He was a charming person who leveraged his charm to buy his way into people's lives and then take those lives from them. He ended up building an elaborate hotel around the same time the White City was being built. The influx of naive young woman coming the area meant and endless flow of victims. He was a brilliant charlatan who never really admitted to all the crimes he committed. A determined detective brought him down and when the hotel was searched there were many odd features, including a room whose sole purpose was to be airtight except the gas that was pumped in to kill the person trapped in the room.
The two stories bounce back and forth seamlessly and the book reads like a great thriller. Even the mundane stories about the architecture are thrilling in this author's hands.
I believe there is a movie in the works about this book so I suspect there will be more attention paid to this menace as well as the the heroes who brought the White City to life.
I have purchase nearly all of Erik Larson's other books and will add reviews from time to time. They are all historical thrillers like this but this remains one of my all time favorites.