Erik Larson, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY
Although I have not so far considered non-fiction, the 2004 Edgar Award winner for Best Fact Crime, is worthy of discussion. It is actually two parallel stories. One describes the construction of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and focuses on Daniel Turnham, the chief architect. To be privy to the gathering of the greatest minds in architecture, engineering, and garden construction in the country is fascinating and instructive.
The parallel story is that of Herman Webster Mudgett (a.k.a. Dr. H.H. Holmes) a serial killer who preyed on young women coming to Chicago for the job opportunities the Fair provided. His methods also utilized cutting edge (pardon the pun) scientific methods.
Even if you don’t care to be exposed to the mind of yet one more murderous sociopath, the story of the Fair is itself worth the cost of admission.