If you liked David Grann’s The Lost City of Z, then you’ll surely love his equally well-researched Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. An epic tale of American greed, Killers of the Flower Moon focuses on the murders of a dozen Osage Indians in Oklahoma during the early 20th century. Ultimately, Grann links these murders to the birth of J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation. Grann questions the Bureau’s efficacy and impact on the Osage Nation.
(For some necessary background, the Federal Government “transferred” the Osage Nation to a hilly part of Oklahoma in the 1870’s. Little did they know the extent of the area’s natural resources.)
Beyond the true crime nature of this story, Grann’s focus on the indomitable Mollie Burkhart is also quite fascinating. An Osage woman who comes of age as the Osage Nation discovers the wealth of oil reserves beneath their land, Mollie is a powerful, stoic force of nature. During her life, Mollie straddled two extremes of society, from poverty to the highest reported regional wealth per capita. Suffering repeated violence against her family, Mollie is determined to figure out their killer(s).
This period of history, on the Osage Reservation, is so rife with stories of corruption and danger all perpetrated by outsiders. It’s disturbing and moving, and so terribly literary in its twists and turns. As I read it, I kept hoping, maybe this isn’t real? But it was.