Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Devil in the White City

I know this blog entry doesn’t go along with the timeline of what we’re talking about, but since people were posting about The Jungle, I figured I would as well and wait till after to throw my thoughts about Burnham and Holmes in the mix.

While we were all getting started with the book, we discussed in class that the more interesting chapters were the ones about Holmes and the chapters filled with endless information about Burnham’s architectural meetings were the ones we would skim through. For some reason, that changed towards the end of the book, and everyone seemed to be more interested in Burnham and not so much in how Holmes was caught by the detective. I have to say that I may have been one of the few who didn’t feel that way. My interest in Holmes continued to thrive, and only increased upon the entry of Detective Geyer and his saga. Perhaps it could have been edited better, but after flipping back and forth from Burnham to Holmes in each chapter, it was nice to read a consistent story and not have to remember where the plot had been left off. I was surprised that nobody else was as interested as I was in wanting to see how such a sneaky mastermind who left an exceedingly difficult trail to follow, was indeed caught.  Just as Burnham and Holmes were brilliant in their own rights, you have to give Detective Geyer some credit for holding his own. Maybe I’ve been watching too much Law and Order, but Geyer barely had any facts to go on, as the majority of the ones he received upon interviewing Holmes were fabricated and exaggerated, yet he still managed to use the letters written by the children to figure out Holmes’ logic well enough to discover the truth. Reading the details about the conditions that Holmes kept the children in as he forced them to travel from place to place were so eerie. Not to mention the body parts Geyer found during his search. It really makes you wonder how one person could be so evil and heartless without thinking twice about it.

The detective Geyer chapters were equally as interesting to me as the ones about Harrison’s murder. I felt like the mayor’s murder kind of came out of nowhere, and like Professor Urrea reiterated in class, he died angry because nobody would believe how severe his bullet wound was.  Who dies like that? Most people are too scared to argue with anyone upon being shot at, but apparently Harrison was a fighter till the end.

I also found it amusing and somewhat appalling that Holmes’ charm continued to work for him while he was in his jail cell, “Holmes became a model prisoner—became in fact the model of a model prisoner. He made a game of using his charm to gain concessions from his keepers. He was allowed to wear his own clothes ‘and to keep my watch and other small belongings’ “. How creepy that these people knew he was being investigated for murder, and yet succumbed to his so-called charm. Were people that worked in prisons back then really that naïve? All in all, this twisted story was as creepy as it was intriguing, and I enjoyed reading it. Although there were a lot of unnecessary facts thrown in which took away from the story and made the reader aware they were reading a story instead of being engrossed in it, and there was the annoying way that Larson pretended like he was there during every single scene, knowing the way that Holmes’ “icy blue eyes would piercingly look at women”, and the cryptic way in which he would end each chapter with a single sentence that was supposed to keep the reader hooked when all it really did was make us roll our eyes, I still enjoyed the story for what it was. 


  1. Well, Sophia, I do agree with you. I do speak much in class because I love to hear the thoughts of others. However, I was extremely interested in seeing the next thing that Holmes would do. In fact, I think I got tired of the building, building maintenance, building funds, building discussions, etc. etc. It was indeed enlightening to know that the author spent so much time researching the city and its history but I wanted more of Holmes. I, too, am a CSI, Law & Order, Cold Case files type of woman and the clues, trails, evidence that I felt Holmes might be leaving behind excitied me to wonder when the police would jumped of his trail and start to piece it all together.

    After paying attention to my classmates, I noticed the literature wasn't the best that I've read but it was hard for me to read it as a fictional novel with so many facts. My brain just switched gears from entertainment to news flash mode and that way it no longer bothered me.

    Larson still gets accolades for me for taking on such a daunting task and putting it in print.

  2. That darned Holmes. How I wish that there had been more interviews with him. Was he crazy? I don't know. Was he diabolical? No doubt. If you look at videos on Youtube of, say, Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, he is charming too. In his own crass way. But the eyes! Dang--he has creepy devil eyes even when he smiles. I often wonder if Holmes was arrogant. he must have been.