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BOOK in review: The Devil in the White City

If you enjoy reading history infused with the crackling tension of fiction, then you will find &

The Devil in the White City&

to be one heck of a tale. It features a compelling juxtaposition of two fascinating characters, both of whom left their indelible mark on the Chicago of 1893, during that high water period when the legendary World&

s Fair was won built, against all odds. The Fair and the events that satellited around it would change the landscape of the city forever.

Daniel H. Burnham, famed architect, was the driving force behind the creation of the Fair &

its buildings and expositions. It was a Herculean task, from designing and building the many structures, to landscaping the vast grounds, to coordinating countless dramatic exhibitions drawn from all over the world. It was called White City for the grand and sumptuous buildings which were stunning when viewed from afar, all painted a glowing, almost incandescent white.

While Burnham was completely in the grip of pulling together what many thought would be an impossible task, securing Chicago and America&

s place in the world (the bar having been set impossibly high by the previous World&

s Fair in Paris), a local doctor, businessman, pharmacist, one H.H. Holmes, was busy building a hotel designed specifically to ensnare young women, luring them like so many moths to a flame. As it turned out, he proved also to be a monster and once theses transplants to Chicago, eager to be fashionably independent, entered his employee, ostensibly as secretary or assistant, they soon disappeared, never to be seen again. What happened to them makes for page-turning reading as Larson creates a profile of a serial killer who was benignly dressed in the lamb&

s clothing, never suspected of being anything more than charming.

That &

White City&

is solid history, makes the book all the more captivating and chilling. Larson writes in the narrative style of fiction though the depth and breadth of the book is profound. He combines meticulous research with a sense of the dramatic and places the reader squarely in Chicago during a time that was extraordinarily wonderful and dangerous. Larson achieves this heightened verisimilitude through detailed descriptions of the people and the streets of Chicago, as well as very personal anecdotes that illuminate and broaden the scope of the work.

Call it creative nonfiction, or docu-fiction. What it does is chronicle a historic achievement with an intriguing subtext of 19th century forensics. It&

s not a whodunit; rather it&

s a how could he have dunit, so malevolent is the crime. As well, Larson weaves into the story countless interesting men and women who were part of this magical achievement, an achievement that was, in some respects, symbolized by the giant Ferris wheel that graced the Fair, designed by an engineer, George H.G. Ferris, and, like the Fair itself, seemed in the planning all but impossible to construct.

The Fair was conceived by a few, built by thousands, and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands, men women and children, who were drawn to the event from all over the country and the world. &

White City&

is a great read and testimony to Erik Larson&

s ingenious melding of fact and fiction.



Nanny McPhee

A woman of unsettling appearance and magical powers enters

the employ of the recently widowed Mr. Brown and attempts

to tame his exceedingly ill-behaved children. They have already driven away 17 previous nannies, but

their vile behavior now leads to swift and rather startling consequences. Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury

PG for mild thematic elements, some rude humor and brief language/98 min.

Big Momma's House 2

The continuing adventures of master-of-disguise FBI special agent

Malcolm Turner. This time he goes undercover as Big Momma to nail his ex-partner's murderer, and grows attached to the suspect's children. Martin Lawrence, Nia Long.

PG-13 for some sexual hmor and a humorous drug reference/99 min.


When local kid Jake Huard won a coveted admission spot to the Naval Academy at Annapolis,

he thought all his dreams had come true. But his battle to become the man he wants to be is just beginning. James Franco, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Donnie Wahlberg, Chi McBride.

PG-13 for some violence, sexual content and language/104 min.


Nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe (Pierce Brosnan) An aging assassin who's losing his touch as a "facilitator of fatalities" befriends an ordinary American businessman at a Mexico City resort. Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis.

Rated R for strong sexual content and language/97 min.

Walk the Line

Golden Globe Winner Best Musical or Comedy, Actor Joaquin Phoenix, Actress Reese Witherspoon A chronicle of the life of Johnny Cash, from his early days on an Arkansas cotton farm to his rise to fame with Sun Records

in Memphis, where he recorded alongside Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, and his romance with June Carter.

Directed by James Mangold ("Girl, Interrupted", "Identity", "Kate Leopold") Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick.

PG-13 for some language, thematic material and depiction of drug dependency/136 min.

Brokeback Mountain

Golden Globe Winner Best Drama, Director, Screenplay, Song. The story about a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys, and their lives over the years. Directed by Ang Lee (&

Crouch Tiger, Hidden Dragon,&


Sense and Sensibility,&


Ice Storm&

) Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid.

R for sexuality, nudity, language and some violence/134 min.

Squid and the Whale

— Golden Globe nominations including Best Musical or Comedy, Actress (Laura Linney), Actor (Jeff Daniels). Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980's. The patriarch of the eccentric Brooklyn family claims to have been a novelist who is now reduced to teaching. When his wife discovers a literary talent of her own, it breaks up the family. Written and Directed by Noah Baumbach (writer of &

Life Aquatic&

) Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Owen Kline, Jesse Eisenberg, William Baldwin, Anna Paquin.

R for strong sexual content, graphic dialogue and language/88 min.


2 Golden Globe nominations including Best Director and Screenplay. In the tragic aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics, a Mossad agent and his squad track and assassinate the Palestinian terrorists who planned and carried out the murder of Israeli athletes. Directed by Steven Spielberg; Starring Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ciaran Hinds.

R for strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity and language/164 min.

Tristan and Isolde

The medieval legend of a princess and a warrior's love affair that threatens to tear apart an uneasy peace between England and Ireland. Directed by Kevin Reynolds (&

Robin Hood&

); Starring James Franco, Sophia Myles, Dexter Fletcher, Rufus Sewell.

PG-13 for intense battle sequences and some sexuality/125 min.

Underworld: Evolution

This sequel traces the beginnings of the ancient feud between the aristocratic Death Dealers and the barbaric Lycans, as Selene discovers she has been betrayed by her own kind and seeks her revenge. Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Derek Jacobi, Bill Nighy.

R for pervasive strong violence and gore, some sexuality/nudity and language/106 min.

Last Holiday

A shy cookware clerk learns she is dying, and embarks on a dream vacation to Europe where she and her uninhibited attitude have a profound and humorous effect on the hotel guests and staff. Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Gerard Depardieu, Alicia Witt, Giancarlo Esposito.

PG-13 for some sexual references/111 min.

Glory Road

The inspiring true story of the underdog Texas Western basketball team, with history's first all African American starting lineup and the passionate coach who led them to the 1966 NCAA tournament title. Josh Lucas, Derek Luke, Jon Voight.

PG for racial issues, including violence and epithets, and momentary language/118 min.