As you know, I am now a commuter who spends 5+ hours daily travelling (I KNOW!) and I am reading so much and most of it are audiobooks. All this time is also allowing me to be more eclectic in my reading. Case in point, the true crime book Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (Doubleday, 2017) is a riveting, harrowing true-crime non-fiction book by American journalist David Grann. The book investigates the murders of members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the early 1920s. I thought the audiobook was excellent.
So here is the historical setting and this is not pretty (TW for genocide, murder, racism): the Osage were moved from their homeland into this Oklahoma reservation where by sheer luck, big oil deposits were discovered. The Osage were clever and made sure to retain the rights to whatever it was that lay below their new reservation which upon this discovery, made their people the wealthiest on the planet per capita at the time.
BUT white people being white people decided this was Not Good and the US Congress then passed a law that arbitrarily decided the Osage could not have direct control of their own wealth and had to have “guardians” – they were deemed too incompetent to handle their own affairs. What comes next is a story of poverty, humiliation and eventually of extermination when the Osage started slowly dying in suspicious circumstances – with every death a new guardian inherited the money.
This is the story of a people but also the personal story of a wealthy woman – Mollie Burkhart – who married a white man, who under all appearances was a good, loving husband. And then Mollie’s family started dying one by one. First one beloved sister, then another, then more family members. Mollie herself started to suspect she was being poisoned (her white doctors were in fact injecting her with poison and not the life-saving insulin she needed). The deaths continued, raising to over 20 killed and dubbed the Osage Reign of Terror.
Mollie’s – and her family’s and by proxy, her people’s story – is what the first part of book is all about.
The second part of the book follows the investigation of the murders at the time – since the local investigators were obviously in with the crimes, the investigation was outsourced. It then became the first major murder investigation of the F.B.I. under the guidance of J Edgar Hoover and in the hands of a dedicated, tenacious investigator, Tom White. White caught the murderers and put most of them in jail.
The third part of the book is about Grann’s investigation of the story alongside contemporary Osage members and the heart-breaking discovery that there could have been five times as many killings that have never been investigated.
This is a (hi)story of gross injustice, unchecked ambition, of genocide and white supremacy.
I am not used to reviewing true crime, non-fiction or audiobooks but I wanted to just leave my brief thoughts here on what I feel is an important read for those interested in history, true crime and justice.