The Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

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What is a good thesis for a book review of The Devil in the White City?

Quick answer:

The Devil in the White City , written by Erik Larson, is a book about a serial killer and his crimes that took place in Chicago during the World's Columbian Exposition. Larson intertwines the story of H.H. Holmes, the serial killer, with many other stories that occured during this time period including famous murders, murders that were never solved, important events of the time, and so on.

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The important thing to remember about doing a book review is that it is different from a book report. You should be able to evaluate the author's source material and how he reaches his intended audience. Larson's book, in my opinion, is very well-researched, with newspaper articles from the period and books concerning the Chicago World Exposition. Also, the book was intended for the general population, not only academics. By intertwining the story of Holmes with the Exposition, one gets an idea that there were bad people back in "the good old days" just like there are in modern society. Larson's title is quite apt. You could also address the detail with which Larson addresses the construction of the fair's site—this gives the reader a view of the architecture of the period. Also, do not forget to write what you thought of the book and whether it was a compelling story for you.

If I had to write a brief thesis, I would say something along the lines of "Larson's ability to combine the story of a serial killer with something as magical as a World's Fair presents the reader with a great view of both the dangers and wonders of Gilded-era Chicago."

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Since you are reviewing the book for a history class, you need to decide which historical aspects you want to focus on and then include those aspects in your thesis statement as well as a little bit of your opinion (because this is a review, not a summary).  You could write something like the following:

Eric Larson's Devil in the White City so effectively blends the history of Chicago's turn-of-the-century preparation for the World's Fair with the gruesome acts of serial killer H.H. Holmes that it reads like crime fiction rather than a stodgy historical account.

Good luck--I hope that you like the book. It took me a while to get into it, but when Larson begins discussing Holmes in more detail, it was difficult for me to put down the book.

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