“History is a merciless judge. It lays bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps and exposes our most intimate secrets, wielding the power of hindsight like an arrogant detective who seems to know the end of the mystery from the outset.”
Imagine a story where a wealthy family succumbs to treachery from one of their own. Where family members die from a bullet or mysteriously through sickness. Then imagine this tragedy not only befalls one family, but an entire group of people living in a small town. And not just this group of people, but the men investigating the crimes start to die. This is David Grann’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” and the story is not fictional. It’s the true account of what happened to the Osage Indians in Oklahoma.
Through a series of events familiar to most Native Americans, the Osage Indians found themselves relocated to Osage County in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. What makes this story unique is that this area in Oklahoma had vast amounts of oil. Each tribal member started earning royalties from their portion of the land producing this liquid gold. This made the Osage Indians one of the wealthiest people per capita in the world. This also made them targets for all kinds of horrible things, from theft to murder. It’s the murders that are the focal point of “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
Known as the Osage Reign of Terror, an inordinate amount of young Osage Indians were being killed or dying under sketchy circumstances. Local authorities were inept in solving the murders – most times not even designating some of the deaths as murders at all. So the tribal elders went to the fledging FBI for assistance. This was a risky move as the 1920’s F.B.I. was not known as an honest organization either. But new director J. Edgar Hoover was determined to bring legitimacy to his department. So he hired a former Texas Ranger, Tom White, to head the investigation. White sent agents undercover in Osage and uncovered a diabolical murder plot borne from greed and envy. Even the most prolific detective-novel writer couldn’t come up with such a story-ready, unsavory cast of characters. And to balance out those nefarious individuals we have Mollie Burkhart, the center and heart of the story. It is her sisters and mother’s deaths that anchor the entire sordid tale.
What makes “Killers of the Blood Moon” so engaging is that this non-fiction book reads like fiction. Grann weaves the tales expertly and the plot never gets bogged down, even when he inserts interesting historical details for context. The story is extremely well researched without being stuffy. And just when you think the tale is finished, Grann goes on his own journey to discover even more unsettling facts about the Osage murders by talking with present day descendants. The Reign of Terror was more widespread and insidious than was believed or discussed.
It came as no surprise to me that this book is headed to the big screen, with talk that movie-icons like Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio associated with it. And I have been deliberately vague in describing too much of the story as just a little info would give away the incredible true-story plot (Hint: don’t fast forward through the book to look at the pictures as they are filled with spoilers).
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is a story that leaves you almost breathless in its scope. It is truly a fictional-like crime-drama that is astoundingly real and proves the adage that not only is truth stranger than fiction but it is decidedly more wicked, too.
Thank you for your time!
Lynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events for a local resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.