“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann (Doubleday, 2017)


David Grann fans have been waiting for his next book – much as I have – impatiently for some time. After the both fascinating and adventurous Lost City of Z (with the movie coming close to release), and the entertaining and thrilling collection of articles, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, Grann turns to a new subject, the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI in Killers of the Flower Moon, a story that is both sobering and compelling. Few may be completely familiar with this unique story, but by the end of the book, will be unable to forget.

As a New York Times staff writer, David Grann is used to diving very deep into a story, and not coming up for air until he’s gleaned every detail and piece of evidence he can from it. In the 1920s, the people of the Osage Indian Nation of Oklahoma were among some of the richest on the planet because vast amounts of oil was found on their land. For the oil tycoons to get at that oil, the Osage had to be paid and paid well. And then, strangely, hauntingly, members of the Osage began to disappear one by one; bodies turned up, dead, mutilated, horribly murdered. And for those that chose to investigate, they often met an unexpected end; the local law enforcement were not required to do anything about it, choosing to turn a blind eye.

The fresh and new Federal Bureau of Investigation, run by a young director, J. Edgar Hoover, wanted to put a stop to this, to end these horrific killings, and make the bureau look like the shining beacon of law enforcement and protection that Hoover wanted it to be for the American people. Hoover tapped the shoulder of a former Texas Ranger, one Tom White, to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. What follows is the riveting story of how this was done, how the perpetrators were found, how the murderers were eventually, finally brought to justice, and how those of the Osage nation were able to find some peace in all this death.

Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon is one of those books that goes beyond a story, to something greater and more important. The reader is left wondering why we don’t all know this story, why it isn’t taught in history classes, why more hasn’t been done for those who have already suffered so much. One hopes Grann will receive some weighty awards for this moving book, as it will serve to get many others across the world to read it and learn of this incredible and tragic story.

Originally written on July 23, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

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