The Devil in the White City

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Part I: Frozen Music (Chapters 5-10)

Summary Part I: Frozen Music (Chapters 5-10)

Holmes meets Myrta’s great-uncle, Jonathan Belknap. Larson explains later that something indefinable but disturbing makes Belknap uneasy upon meeting Holmes, but he gives Holmes money to buy a home for him and Myrta. Holmes forges Belknap’s signature on a banknote, then invites Belknap to Chicago to take a tour of his hotel. Belknap declines Holmes’ invitation to see the roof, but agrees to stay the night. Patrick Quinlan unsuccessfully attempts to enter Belknap’s room. The next day, Belknap discovers the banknote forgery, and Holmes apologizes.

Summary: Chapter 8: The Landscape of Regret

The Eastern architects see Jackson Park for the first time and come away stunned and discouraged. The landscape will be challenging to build on because of dead trees, quicksand underneath the initial layers, and water fluctuations in the lake. 

Root returns to Chicago and meets the architects after their visit to Jackson Park. He begins to act uncharacteristically tired and ill, but invites them to his home the next day and then returns home himself.

To build enthusiasm, the Fair’s Grounds and Buildings Committee hosts an extravagant banquet to honor the architects. Burnham and Lyman Gage, president of the Exposition, deliver rousing speeches, and people seem united. However, at Root’s home the next day, the Eastern architects still have a “listless and hopeless attitude.” They believe it will be difficult to design such big and cheap buildings. They also worry about the ground surfaces and timeline.

Summary: Chapter 9: Vanishing Point

Icilius “Ned” Conner, his wife Julia, and daughter Pearl rent a flat in Holmes’ hotel. Ned works for Holmes in a jewelry store on the bottom floor. Holmes hires Julia in the drugstore, and hires Ned’s sister Gertrude when she moves to Chicago. Holmes makes Ned uneasy because of his strong hold on Julia and Gertie. As a favor to Holmes, Ned tests the vault to see if it is soundproof. While he is disturbed by it, Ned does not further question the purpose of the vault.

Many people are disappearing in Chicago. Parents send letters inquiring about the whereabouts of their missing daughters. The police force is too small and poorly trained to investigate properly. When found, unclaimed bodies are often used at medical colleges for dissection or anatomy instruction.