The Devil in the White City – A Review

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a macabre fascination with serial killers, especially ones from the past. I went through a phase of reading anything and everything I could about Jack the Ripper and still find the whole subject surrounding, probably the most infamous murderer of all time, fascinating.

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So when I stumbled across the name H.H.Holmes and did some digging I was super intrigued. A charismatic doctor who moved to Chicago and built a hotel as a way to lure women to him and kill them. I managed to pick up the copy of this book fairly cheap (I got it second hand off Amazon) The book flits between the story of Daniel Burnham (a man given the task to oversee the building of the World’s Fair Exposition in Chicago) and H.H.Holmes a charming and smooth talking doctor with amazing powers of manipulation and someone who was also incredibly dangerous and sick.

As I went to Chicago last year, I actually enjoyed reading about the building of the fair and learning more about it’s history, some of the most well known things came about there (Shredded Wheat and the Ferris Wheel to name a couple) When it got to the chapters talking about the crimes Holmes executed in his strangely built hotel, it made the hairs on my arm stand on end. The ease with which he would like to neighbours and family members asking about their missing daughters (who he had murdered and disposed of) makes for some unsettling reading.

However as the book progressed, I couldn’t help but think that I would have liked to have heard more about the crimes in depth, more about Holmes’ time incarcerated as well as more about his victims. Whilst the parts of the book following Daniel Burnham and the World’s Fair appealed to the history buff in me (and the lover of Chicago) I felt that it took away from the whom the book was actually about, America’s First Serial Killer.
That being said, Erik Larson wrote it in a way that the information wasn’t too heavy and you can tell he’s really done his research and has a true passion for the subject, and that came across in his writing. I got through it fairly quickly, but I would have liked the ending to have been as detailed as the rest of the book.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

Happy reading.

G.
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Book Review – The Penguin Book of Witches by Katharine Howe

In modern day society when you hear the word ‘Witch’ an image is conjured to mind of Halloween, a crooked nose and a pointed cap and the sad fact is, at one point in time there were actual women who were persecuted by their community because they were believed to have been consorting with the Devil and were condemned as Witches.

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The Penguin Book of Witches by Katharine Howe is an incredibly detailed novel. Howe has done extensive research into the Witch Trials that took place not only here in the UK, but in America and most notably Salem. There are excerpts from novels written at the time, interviews that took place, trial notes and much more in this book.

This a fantastic piece of work which not only sheds a light on the horrific ways in which women were tried but also shows how delusional and brainwashed people were. It also seems that women of a lower class seemed to be targeted by these Witch Hunters and how much easier it seemed to place the blame of death on any woman accused of having ‘spirit guides’ which to the modern person would just be a lonely old woman who speaks to her cats.

In depth, eye opening and fascinating, this book makes for a great read even if you’re not interested in the history of the witch trials. My only criticism is some of the Old English words took a while to work around to make it easy flowing.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

‘Sickness from unhygienic conditions made for a high infant mortality rate, but those deaths were easier to bear if they could be blamed on someone else’

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