Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

This was my book club book for the month of July

Subtitle: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Published: 2017

Genre: nonfiction historical crime

Length: 291 pages of story, 338 pages total

Setting: Osage County, Oklahoma, early 1900s

SummaryShort version: White people screw Native Americans again in Osage, OK

Long version: The Osage Indians were forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma, chosen because the land was unsuited for farming. Turns out, it was on top of a major oil field, though, and the Osage had retained their mineral rights. They quickly became rich and the target of unscrupulous people. In the 1920s, there was a string of questionable deaths among the Osage. No progress was made in finding the culprit until the nascent FBI got involved. Hoover appoints Tom White to head the investigation. White isn’t one of the college boys Hoover favors, but he unravels the threads and identifies the killer of Mollie Burkhart’s family – Bill Hale. Hale was a prominent member of the community who had killed to get access to the oil money. Many Osage were killed for that reason.

Final thoughts: A depressing book because it reminds me how terrible people can be to each other. There was a lot of institutional racism against the Osage. The government couldn’t stop the Osage from getting rich, but they could stop them from accessing their money. And then, the Osage started dying under mysterious circumstances and nothing was done because so many of the prominent white people were involved in stealing their money.

I did like how Grann focused on a single family, at least for part one of the book. In part three, we see that the killings were even more extensive than through. The second part focused on the FBI’s role in bringing at least one of the masterminds to justice. The FBI had just been created and Hoover was still working on making it a premier investigative organization. Heck, even forensics and a professional police department were just starting to be a thing.

Title comes from: One of the Osage labels for a particular moon was the Flower Killer Moon because it happened after the spring wildflowers died. I’m sure it was used as the title because it refers to the killings of the Osage.

Reading challenges fulfilled: book #52 for 2018 and a K in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!



Filed under Book review

2 responses to “Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

  1. Marishka

    Wonderful summary, thank you.
    As an aside, the Osage term FMK makes me wonder if it means they had the same grief I do when that short lived period of spring flowers ends-killer being such a strong term. Maybe it was just a practical reference, though.
    (Of course I agree with your interpretation of the use of the term in the title.)

    • It could also be an interpretation thing for the phraseology. Perhaps “Killer” isn’t quite what the Osage meant, but it’s the closest we could come in English. It definitely is a sad thing when all the flowers die, though.

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