The book begins in 1890, when Chicago is a candidate to hold the Worlds Fair, or the Worlds Columbian Exposition, meant to commemorate Columus arriving in America. Daniel Burnham was responsible for building the White City. He overcame multiple crushing obstacles and personal tragedies to make the Fair the magical, awe-inspiring event that it was. He brought together some of the greatest architects of the Gilded Age such as Charles McKim, George Post, Richard Hunt, Frederick Law Olmsted, and others, and convinced them of the importance of the Fair. Burnham somehow got them to work together to achieve what many considered to be an impossible project in an astonishingly short amount of time. The result of their strenuous hard work ended in a beautiful even that brought almost 40 million people to the city of Chicago and transformed the shoreline of Chicago forever.
A few miles away, in the suburb of Englewood, a different kind of story was unfolding. Dr. H. H. Holmes had built a boarding house turned torture chamber on one full city block. Holmes was described as a handsome, blue-eyed charmer who had away with women. He would seduce, mesmerize, and intrigue them, all the way up until the pint at where he killed them. He had many ways of torture and death, such as smothering them with ether-soaked rags, of locking them in an air tight chamber and releasing poisonous gas into them. After killing his victims, Holmes would often dissect them; removing their skin, selling their skeletons to be used in medical school. He truly was the worst victim, due to his sociopathic mind that prayed on the vulnerable and found a certain unexplainable joy in the art of killing.