Saturday, May 27, 2017

Killers of the Flower Moon

Title:  Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murder and the Birth of the FBI
Author:  David Grann
Publication Information:  Doubleday. 2017. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0385534248 / 978-0385534246

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "In April, millions of tiny flowers spread over the blackjack hills and vast prairies in the Osage territory of Oklahoma."

Favorite Quote:  "An Indian Affairs agent said, 'The question will suggest itself, which of these people are the savages?'"

The history is disturbing and chilling, made even more so because it is an actual history not fiction. The theme is ages old, forever present in this world. People kill for money. The extent to which such greed can reach is scary in the history of the Osage murders. The book is intense and compelling.

Let's set the stage. The Osage nation lives and prospers. The settlers come and want the land. Gradually, the Osage are pushed in land allotments with the settlers getting the pick of the fertile farm land. Even worse, the Osage are deemed incapable of managing their own financial affairs; the finances of many are placed in the hands of guardians who are not of the tribe. Many guardians use this as a opportunity to line their own pockets.

The Osage own their land under the Allotment Act, and they own the rights to deposits of oil, gas, coal, or other minerals found in the land. Land could be bought or sold; mineral rights had to be inherited through the tribal rolls.

In the early twentieth century, the tribe leases out its land for exploration. Oil is discovered and discovered in such abundance that the Osage are wealthy beyond anyone's imagination. As the book jacket describes, "In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma."

"Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off." Some were outright shot. Some disappered. Some appeared to have died of no cause; it was later clear they were poisoned. Some of those who came to investigate also met a similar end. Then, the newly created FBI under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover got involved and exposed the diabolical plan underlying these deaths.

This book recounts this history in three main sections. Chronicle One:  The Marked Woman anchors the story and makes these murders about individuals and a family. Mollie Burkhart survived this systematic extermination but lost most of her family. This section of the book walks through the lives of specific individuals who were killed and the impact of the deaths on their families and communities. It depicts those who came to help, those who appeared to help, and lays the groundwork for the shock of discovery as to who is actually the mastermind of this plot. This section is also the emotional anchor of the book because it takes the history and makes it intensely personal. This is not reading about a case; it is the story of Mollie and her family.

Chronicle Two:  The Evidence Man is about the involvement of the newly created FBI, the investigation, and the prosecution of those deemed to be guilty. This section appears to bring to closure the story of Mollie Burkhart family as those responsible are brought to justice. This is the story of an investigation and a court trial. Sadly still relevant today are the discussions that the level of prosecution, accountability, and punishment depended both on the race of the victim and the race of the perpetrator. Justice was sadly not, and still is sadly not, color blind.

Chronicle Three:  The Reporter is the surprise in the book. The case of the murders of Mollie Burkhart's family was resolved. What more was going to occupy a third of this book? That is when the history becomes even more disturbing and chilling. This reporter delves into the fact that the scope of the murders did not end with the case of Mollie Burkhart's family. Many more cases went unsuspected, unreported, and unresolved. Justice was not done. The book leaves the reader with a reference to the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible. "The blood cries out from the ground."

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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