Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Doubleday, 2017.  Hardcover, 352 pages.killersoftheflowermoon

Killers of the Flower Moon is a investigative historical/true crime piece about the “Reign of Terror” that affected the Osage Nation in the 1920s and 1930s.  This followed the oil discoveries on their reservation which led to the Osage becoming, until the Great Depression, some of the richest people in America.  Instead of focusing on the overall event, Grann focuses in on the Burkhart family and its experiences, adding outside murders that were related.  Mollie Burkhart, an Osage married to a German-American, seems to be losing every member of her family during the events while also seeing friends and neighbors turn up dead.  Some were outright murdered, while others sickened of probable poisoning before passing on.  When local investigations turn up no leads, the Osage ask for the federal government to step in.

Enter the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  J. Edgar Hoover sends in Texan Tom White to lead the investigation, their first major homicide case. Through the work of Tom, readers will see how the early FBI operated, complete with insights into the changes Hoover brought to federal investigations.  White leads a varied band of men who go undercover to gather leads while White took a visible position.  Slowly, they ferret out the truth, but corruptions and a spy in their midst threaten the investigation and subsequent court cases.  Will justice prevail?

Overall, Killers of the Flower Moon is a compelling read.  The first two of the three sections were page turners and the whole book was written in an easy-to-read manner.  However, the third section turned away from history to tell about the author’s involvement and speculation of murders beyond those known in history.  While Grann may be right about there being many more murders, this section just seemed to be an add-on where a conclusion chapter may have been better.  As for Grann’s sources, many were primary or gathered from relatives of those murdered.  I will admit I learned something new as I never realized about the Osage and the headrights.  Additionally, each major player in the book’s life is discussed in detail, meaning this book also serves as a mini-bibliography of Mollie, her family members, White, and White’s men.  Thus, this work will appeal to lovers of history, biography, and true crime.

Had you heard about these murders before?  If so, do you have other books to recommend?  Have you read about book by Grann?  If so, what did you think?  Lastly, do you think you will read this book?

This review is based on an advanced reader edition provided by the publisher. Killers of the Flower Moon will be released on April 18, 2017.


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