Erik Larson definitely did his research on this one. In the 1890s, Chicago was set as the location for the Columbian Exposition, also known as the World’s Fair, and architect Daniel Burnham was selected as the lead architect of the colossal project. More than just deadlines weighed him down though, the pride of Chicago, and really all of America, was at stake. If the Fair failed, the US would be the laughing stock of the rest of the modern world. But if it succeeded, Chicago could prove that as a city, they were capable of more than pig slaughter and dirty streets, and the US could prove that is was a nation just as refined as its much older neighbors across the Atlantic.
The Fair meant something to every member of Chicago. To some it was to prove the city’s worth to the rest of the country, to others it was a chance to meet worldly people and experience things from all over the globe, but to a very specific individual, it meant the perfect opportunity to begin one of the most gruesome and truly sickening series of killings in American history. H. H. Holmes, if that is even his real name, used the Fair as the perfect way to lure victims into his hotel with his charm and cunning. His nature allowed him to avoid suspicions for years, until his years of fraud finally caught up to him. It was only once he was imprisoned for insurance fraud charges that suspicions of Holmes’ role in the missing persons and murders during the fair came about.
The novel tells two parallel stories of two different men, both ridden with ambition and striving to be the best at what it is that they do. Every few chapters the book will bounce back and forth from one story to the other, always keeping things interesting and avoiding the plot from becoming too monotonous or dragging. It took me much longer to read than expected, as I got very busy with classes whilst reading it. But if I would have had the time, I know this would have been one I finished in less than a week.