H. H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil
Booklist Reviews 2017 March #2
*Starred Review* Selzer has made a career of fact-checking the most sordid details of Chicago history, disseminating the weird and gritty true history of the city and its most unsavory people through popular mystery tours, a podcast, and books. When the unprecedented success of Erik Larson's Devil in The White City (2003) stirred up renewed interest in serial killer H. H. Holmes, Selzer made it his mission to painstakingly research Holmes' life, family, and crimes with intense determination and doggedness. The result is this comprehensive, compelling, and surprising biography of Holmes, written in a conversational style, as if we are passengers on one of Selzer's tours. The book follows every move Holmes ever made, dragging readers all over the country, breathlessly following his trail of deceit and lies. Using thousands of primary sources to draw the most accurate picture yet of this American villain, Selzer keeps the delicate balance of salacious (and mundane) details maintained with solid facts. What emerges is a picture of a terrible but intriguing man, one who continues to capture our imagination over a century later, and one whose story leaps off the page in Selzer's uniquely suited hands. A must-read for fans of The Devil in The White City, of course, but this biography will also hold its own independently in true-crime collections. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2017 March #2
H.H. Holmes is widely considered to be America's first real serial killer, thanks to books such as Erik Larson's Devil in the White City painting him as such. Selzer (host, Mysterious Chicago podcast), however, seeks to debunk much of the fictionalized and sensational aspects of Holmes's alleged killing spree during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair in this comprehensive and intriguing account. Many accepted estimates put his kill count at somewhere between 30 and 200; Selzer, thanks to exhaustive research of previously undiscovered and ignored primary sources, narrows that down to four confirmed murders: Holmes's business partner, Benjamin Pitezel, and three of Pitezel's children. Selzer sets the record straight with regard to Holmes lore—he didn't lure young, single women into his "murder castle" in Englewood during the World's Fair, and his "castle" never functioned as a hotel. In fact, Holmes was much more notorious for his insurance fraud schemes. According to Selzer, much of Holmes lore came from unfettered sensationalized journalism, rampant gossip, unreliable witnesses, and Holmes himself—he was a compulsive liar and probably enjoyed the notoriety before he was sentenced to death.
PW Reviews 2017 January #4
Was late 19th-century mass murderer H.H. Holmes motivated more by psychological compulsions than practical concerns? Selzer (