March 10, 2003 12:00 PM

by Erik Larson

This true story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair divides its attentions between a master builder and an equally dedicated murderer. While architect Daniel H. Burnham oversaw such marvels as what was then the world’s largest building, a serial killer, Henry Holmes, preyed on visitors in a nearby hotel he built and equipped with a macabre basement killing room. In a style that is suspenseful as well as entertaining, Larson shows us how both our highest aspirations and our most loathsome urges figured in the creation of the modern world. (Crown, $25.95)

BOTTOM LINE: World class

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