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

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

by David Grann
 

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From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history
 
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After

Overview

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history
 
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
     Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.
     In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.
     In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. The book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 10/10/2016
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.)
Library Journal
★ 02/01/2017
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. VERDICT A spellbinding book about the largest serial murder investigation you've never heard of, which will be enjoyed by fans of the Old West as well as true crime aficionados. [See Prepub Alert, 10/17/16.]—Deirdre Bray Root, MidPointe Lib. Syst., OH
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2017-02-02
Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs. Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
From the Publisher
“A fascinating account of a tragic and forgotten chapter in the history of the American West. As in all his work, David Grann digs deep, and this powerful story reveals the unimaginable scale of these shocking murders almost a hundred years ago.”
--John Grisham, New York Times bestselling author of The Whistler

"Quite simply, this is a remarkable book, by a remarkable author—an exhumation of a shockingly brutal series of historical murders, that I for one knew nothing about. Utterly original; completely compelling."
--Erik Larson, New York Times bestselling author of Dead Wake and Devil in the White City

"Killers of the Flower Moon is a magnificent book—a riveting true story of greed, serial murder, and racial injustice that exposes an extremely disturbing episode of American History. David Grann is a terrific journalist, and this is maybe the best thing he’s ever written."
--Jon Krakauer, New York Times bestselling author of Missoula and Into Thin Air

“Loyal readers of David Grann’s books have come to expect jaw-dropping set-ups and brilliantly crafted narratives. Both are on full, dazzling display here. There is an unexpected bonus in the book’s final section, when Grann puts on his deer-stalking hat and proceeds to solve several 85-year-old, unsolved crimes.”
--S.C Gwynne, New York Times bestselling author of Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon

“Killers of the Flower Moon brings shattering resolve to a story that resonates now.  As Native Americans fighting to protect resources on the remnants of our lands, we confront the same paternalism, hypocrisy, and greed that destroyed Osage lives and culture in the early 1920's.  David Grann has a razor keen instinct for suspense.  He shapes outrage into a principled steady insistence that voice be given to the victims and their descendants.  He creates deeply human portraits of every character in this drama—the evil, the just, the innocent, the doomed.  Through meticulous detective work, Grann rescues unbearable truth. As with all of his books, this is a mesmerizing read.”
--Louise Erdrich, National Book Award-winning author of The Round House and LaRose
 
“Killers of the Flower Moon is an exceedingly rare book: at the same time a riveting, page-turning mystery and a deeply researched, serious work of nonfiction. This stunning story had been lost to time. Now, thanks to David Grann, it will never again be forgotten.”
--Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of Hero of the Empire

“If Killers of the Flower Moon were a novel, one would marvel at David Grann’s skill in constructing such a taut, driving narrative with so many stunning plot twists.  But it is a true story, based on years of meticulous reporting, making the book both a fiercely entertaining mystery story and a wrenching exploration of evil.”
--Kate Atkinson, New York Times bestselling author of A God in Ruins and Life After Life

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385534246
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/18/2017
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
383,283
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.96(d)

Meet the Author

DAVID GRANN is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the bestselling author of The Devil and Sherlock Holmes and The Lost City of Z, which has been translated into more than twenty languages. His stories have appeared in many anthologies of the best American writing, and he has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.