Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann is a haunting nonfiction novel that will stick with you.
I went to high school and college in Oklahoma. When Killers of the Flower Moon was first published, my father-in-law and friends back in OK kept telling me I should read it—that it was unlike anything they’ve read before. I’ve mentioned before that nonfiction isn’t a top genre for me. Mainly because I feel there tends to be a distance between the author and the subject. But when I learned what Killers of the Flower Moon covered, I knew I had to read it. I’m so glad I finally did—it’s riveting, shocking and told in such a vivid matter that you would think the author was a witness to all the events in the ’20s.
Killers of Flower Moon synopsis:
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.
If you’re a true crime fan, you definitely need to read this one. The author really focuses on Mollie throughout the story and it’s horrifying to read what she endured—all because of greed for money. But the murders weren’t just limited to Mollie’s family and we learn that the entire Osage tribe in Oklahoma was impacted in some way by these killings. And they’re still feeling the impact to this day.
There’s also the grim reality that the racism the Osage and other tribes endured, didn’t disappear with the passing of time. In fact, when it comes to education about Oklahoma, I remember there wasn’t much focused on the tribes, its culture and impact to the state as whole. Hopefully that has changed in recent years and I’m sure this book will be a big reason why. You can’t run from history but instead, you have to learn, grow and evolve.
Be sure to check out this interesting interview of the author by NPR that really dives into the story.
If you’re wondering if your book club should read this, I definitely think it will warrant a lot of discussion. Also, production is starting to move forward on the movie version, which will be directed by Martin Scorsese and will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. So be sure to read the book before the movie comes out!
Check out my book club questions here.