Review | Killers of the Flower Moon : by David Grann

This book is a very well written history text. An historical account of a period in America’s – Oklahoma’s – Osage County’s past. A past that never was disclosed in any history book I encountered in school. A dark secret as evil as the greed that spawned it.

In the 1920’s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured cars and lived in mansions.

Killers of the flower moon book jacket

This non-fiction story about the terrible saga that became known as the Osage Reign of Terror reads like a true-crime mystery novel. The reader is exposed to an extremely disturbing episode in American history. Here is a documented example of America’s relationship with its indigenous peoples and the “culture of killing” that has marred that tie. I found myself wondering why I had never learned , till now, of this strange and terrible saga.

As a result of their new found wealth, one by one the Osage began to be killed. Mollie Burkhart watched as her family became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. Other Osage were also dying mysteriously and those who investigated the crimes were themselves murdered.

Grann is a meticulous detective. His research is extensive with resources ranging from FBI files, secret grand jury testimony, court transcripts and informants’ statements, to Osage Tribal Council records, oral histories and private papers that came directly from descendants, among them the relatives of the victims. To construct the history of the Osage, Grann used the seminal works of two Osage writers; the historian, Louis F. Burns and the prose poet, John Joseph Matthews.

Due to the nature and extent of the crimes against the Osage, the newly created Bureau of Investigation became involved. The young, secretive director, J. Edgar Hoover, was struggling to crack the mystery. Hoover turned to former Texas Ranger, Tom White, who put together and uncover team. Many Osage believed local authorities were colluding with the killers. Agent White believed corruption permeated every institution in Osage County and that local sources were intentionally spreading disinformation to conceal the real plot.

The book is peppered with authentic photos of people and places:

  • Mollie Burkhart and family – prime targets (shot and poisoned)
  • Wah-Ti-An-Kah – Osage chief
  • Downtown Pawhuska, Oklahoma – transformed during the oil rush
  • Tom White – agent for the newly created Bureau of Investigation. White was supposed to be strictly a fact gather. Agents were not authorized to carry weapons. “In those days we had no power of arrest.” – Tom White
  • J. Edgar Hoover – at 29 years old selected Director of the Bureau of Investigation
  • William Hale – major suspect for the murders. White suspected that Hale would never admit his sins, certainly not to a lawman and perhaps not even to the God whom he so often invoked.

These are just a few of the many. Having authentic images creates a more significant connection with the story.

The degree of detail and of personalization, written into the pages of this book, supports the documentation of one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. This is a must read.

Published by Audrey Newhall

I am an avid reader and contributor to Penna Book Reviews

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