In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage 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, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.
As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent who infiltrated the region, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Book Club Questions for Killers of the Flower Moon
- Did you know anything about the Osage murders prior to reading this novel? Why do you think these murders were forgotten?
- The Osage came to Oklahoma, expecting to be left alone. But then after the discovery of oil on their land, they became extremely wealthy and also a target. In addition, the government installed a racist system—not allowing the Osage to spend their own money. Let’s talk about the ways the Osage tribe was failed and how they weren’t protected at all from what was to come.
- Mollie Burkhart is a central figure in this novel. In many ways, she was caught between trying to honor her heritage while also being forced to assimilate to the white culture of Oklahoma. She was very intelligent and did everything in power to help solve the murders of her loved ones. Let’s talk about our thoughts on Mollie.
- Why do you think William Hale had such an influence on the town and the larger community?
- The crimes were so calculating and many times, the criminals would befriend and even marry and have children with those they targeted. But it went beyond that—doctors help to cover up the crimes, neighbors didn’t say anything, etc. Let’s discuss all of this.
- When do you think Mollie started to suspect that her husband Ernest was involved in her family’s murders? Or do you think she believed he was innocent until he confessed during the trial?
- Beyond Mollie’s family, there were other shootings and people dying of mysterious illnesses there were never solved. Let’s talk about this.
- What were your thoughts as you read about the beginnings of the FBI? If they hadn’t taken the case, do you think Hale and the others would have gotten away with the murders?
- What are some of the other key takeaways from this book?
- Martin Scorsese is working on the movie version of this story that will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Which aspects of the story do you think will make it to the screen?
What to Read Next
Here are some more nonfiction recommendations for your book club along with links to discussion questions.
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow is about a journalist’s quest to shed light on the truth.
In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move, and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family.
All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance they could not explain — until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood to Washington and beyond.
This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability, and silence victims of abuse. And it’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.
Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Killbreaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook our culture.
Educated by Tara Westover
Educated by Tara Westover is a deeply personal memoir about a journey to education.
Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.