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Booklist Reviews 2017 February #2
*Starred Review* During the early 1920s, many members of the Osage Indian Nation were murdered, one by one. After being forced from several homelands, the Osage had settled in the late nineteenth century in an unoccupied area of Oklahoma, chosen precisely because it was "rocky, sterile, and utterly unfit for cultivation." No white man would covet this land; Osage people would be happy. Then oil was soon discovered below the Osage territory, speedily attracting prospectors wielding staggering sums and turning many Osage into some of the richest people in the world. Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, 2010) centers this true-crime mystery on Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman who lost several family members as the death tally grew, and Tom White, the former Texas Ranger whom J. Edgar Hoover sent to solve the slippery, attention-grabbing case once and for all. A secondary tale of Hoover's single-minded rise to power as the director of what would become the FBI, his reshaping of the bureau's practices, and his goal to gain prestige for federal investigators provides invaluable historical context. Grann employs you-are-there narrative effects to set readers right in the action, and he relays the humanity, evil, and heroism of the people involved. His riveting reckoning of a devastating episode in American history deservedly captivates. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2016 November #2
In the 1920s, members of Oklahoma's Osage Indian nation were the world's richest people per capita, for oil had been discovered beneath their land. Then they began dying mysteriously in what proved to be a test for the newly formed FBI. A story both chilling and shameful; from author of the No. 1 New York Times best-selling The Lost City of Z.. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.
LJ Reviews 2017 February #1
In the 1870s, the Osage Indians were herded onto a small tract of land in Oklahoma—land that unexpectedly held vast reserves of oil, rendering the tribe incredibly rich overnight. By law, the Osage had mineral rights outright, although they were still treated like children, requiring a white "guardian" to manage their assets. In 1921, there was a sudden upsurge in deaths of the Osage on the reservation—accidents, bad whiskey, and outright murder. Author Grann (The Lost City of Z) writes of these crimes, where at least 18 Osage and three nontribe members met suspicious deaths by 1925, many of them members of the same family. The Osage pleaded for the federal government to help, and J. Edgar Hoover, head of the fledgling FBI, sent agent Tom White to investigate. White discovered that many of the victims were connected to a single man, an upstanding community leader who stood to profit handsomely from the murders. The long, drawn out investigation finally resulted in convictions and good publicity for the agency, but some unanswered questions remain.
PW Reviews 2016 October #2
New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Lost City of Z) burnishes his reputation as a brilliant storyteller in this gripping true-crime narrative, which revisits a baffling and frightening—and relatively unknown—spree of murders occurring mostly in Oklahoma during the 1920s. From 1921 to 1926, at least two dozen people were murdered by a killer or killers apparently targeting members of the Osage Indian Nation, who at the time were considered "the wealthiest people per capita in the world" thanks to the discovery of oil beneath their lands. The violent campaign of terror is believed to have begun with the 1921 disappearance of two Osage Indians, Charles Whitehorn and Anna Brown, and the discovery of their corpses soon afterwards, followed by many other murders in the next five years. The outcry over the killings led to the involvement in 1925 of an "obscure" branch of the Justice Department, J. Edgar Hoover's Bureau of Investigation, which eventually charged some surprising figures with the murders. Grann demonstrates how the Osage Murders inquiry helped Hoover to make the case for a "national, more professional, scientifically skilled" police force. Grann's own dogged detective work reveals another layer to the case that Hoover's men had never exposed. Agents: Kathy Robbins and David Halpern, Robbins Office. (Apr.) Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Remarkable that this particular part of history has not been systematically made part of Western history. Perhaps in the histories of the 20's, more Gatsbies and John Dillingers crowded this hapless and frightening saga out of "common history". Nevertheless, the story is near unbelievable, brutal, and frightening. One man and his henchmen completely terrorize a rural bereft county in Oklahoma... bereft of everything that is than black gold... oil, much of which is owned by Osage Indians. And one by one, Indians are murdered, poisoned, and even blown up to obtain their oil rights. The local authorities are firmly in the pocket of the big man until, for various reasons, the FBI shows up. Even then "justice" is a slow slog for Osage County. You'll be fascinated that such a thing occurred just a century ago.
True Crime Book Which is Gripping and Eye-Opening
I'm not a huge fan of the "True Crime" genre, but this entry appears on enough "best of" lists that it grabbed my attention. I'd also heard the author on a podcast sharing a sketch of the remarkable and shocking "reign of terror" described in this non-fiction book. The Osage Indians in the Plains States got rich in the early 20th century due to the discovery of oil underneath their nation. Although they were able to enjoy their wealth for a while, eventually numerous and notable members of the tribe were murdered. When the local law enforcement authorities were unable or unwilling to bring the killer(s) to justice, the U.S. government sent outside agents from the fledgling agency which would later be called the FBI. Two intertwined stories are masterfully woven together by Grann - the Osage murders and the hunt for those involved in these crimes and how the FBI was formed by this investigation. The story becomes a page turner due to Grann's abundant use of details in describing the colorful characters and shocking events. Ample period photos add to the drama. Tremendous research and analysis is clearly at work. Once the historical story is told, a substantial epilogue is offered relating how Grann's findings and his communication of these with living descendants of those who were murdered brought healing and closure to wounds eight decades later. An engaging and eye-opening read which should not be missed and which lives up to it's "best of" status!