In Mystery/Horror/Crime, Non-Fiction

By Erik Larson

I am going to beat the proverbial expired equine by once again letting everyone know I don’t do summaries; it’s time wasted.

I really, really wanted to read this book, especially since the word on the street about this award winning book was beyond glowing, but I put it off to do something far less important. So right after I completed an excruciatingly difficult first year in law school, I pulled out my copy and dove in hoping to escape to another time, another land…and boy was I.

This intriguing look at 19th century architectural greats, the struggle to erect and design the Chicago world fair and a serial killer that lurked in the shadows did not disappoint. I was instantly sucked through time to an event that created and destroyed lives, companies and reputations. There are several chilling/gruesome moments, but the overall effect of the story is dark, informative and magical.

While the book is menacing, it is also informative, drawing on anecdotes about famous historical figures like Disney and Eiffel. As these back stories offer a fantastic learning experience, it is the conceptualizing of elaborate structural designs, the excruciating time constraints put on the architects and the tragic events that seemed to plague the fair that really put paint to canvas. Moreover, it is riddled with suspense. James Patterson it is not, so don’t expect a light easy read. But there is sickness, a serial killer, love letters, cowboys, union strikes, fights and blood.

Overall, I loved it, but I could see where someone might become bored. This is history people…captivating and exciting…but history nonetheless. In fact, I believe the only fiction comes from inferences made by the author when he was unable to obtain the minute details surrounding the building and operation of the 1893 fair. Check it out and see for yourself, but I promise if you enjoy more than a light-hearted summer read, this one won’t disappoint.

Sara O'Connor
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