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

by David Grann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,3782092,957 (4.07)263
Presents a true account of the early twentieth-century murders of dozens of wealthy Osage and law-enforcement officials, citing the contributions and missteps of a fledgling FBI that eventually uncovered one of the most chilling conspiracies 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, they 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. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe 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 like Al Spencer, the "Phantom Terror," roamed--many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization's first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.… (more)
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» See also 263 mentions

English (207)  French (2)  All languages (209)
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
Interesting subject matter but the writing itself is uneven in tone. ( )
  fionaanne | Nov 11, 2021 |
Methodical Murder for Money

Mass murders litter and darken the pages of American history and, with the exception of a few, fade from the collective consciousness with the passing of generations. So was the case of the Osage murders of the early 1920s, until David Grann resurrected this particularly dark passage, even digging deeper, beyond the known facts, to show the slow, systematic massacre involved more deaths and more killers than originally thought. His book stands as an outstanding example of historical journalism.

The Osage Indian murders were a series of murders of Osage tribe members who controlled the headrights (a beneficial interest in a tribal trust fund governing a tribe’s jointly held resources) to Oklahoma land that proved abundant with oil, and that temporarily made the Osage the richest people in the U.S., and possibly the world at that time. For these rights, white businesspeople, professionals, and guardians (people appointed to help tribe members control their finances until the government judged them capable of managing their own resources) conspired to murder and assume control of Osage land, not to mention the gouging of tribe members in the dispensing of advice and management of finances.

Grann relates the story of the Osage murders by beginning with the murders of Anna Brown, Charles Whitehorn, and Brown’s mother Lizzie Kyle. These women were the sister and mother of a focal story in the book, that of Mollie Burkhart. By personalizing and concentrating on one family, the author adds a touch of humanity that makes it easier for readers to understand and identify with the plight of Mollie and all the others who lost family members to what amounted to conspiratorial murders aimed at gaining control over oil rich land.

So corrupt were local officials and business interests, people concerned about the mounting deaths had to call in outside help to stem the murders and bring the killers to justice. This case, then, became young J. Edgar Hoover’s opportunity to advance the cause for a strong national police force, the transforming of his small, nascent Bureau of Investigation into the FBI we know today. Grann covers Hoover and his methods well throughout and in a chapter devoted to the original G-man.

Spearheading the effort on the Bureau’s behalf was an incorruptible and unimpeachable lawman, another relatable focus for Grann and his readers, Tom White. With White in charge and a team of Western lawmen from outside the area and working undercover under his command, the case was broken, though not after numerous frustrations, and a number of culprits, including the most prosperous and so-called upstanding citizen of Osage, the man known as the “King of Osage Hills,” William Hale, were brought to trial and convicted. White comes across as something of a hero, due to his dogged determination. And Hoover gets from the case what he wanted, proof of the need and usefulness of a modern national police force.

As Grann discovered, however, the case never really ended with the convictions of those White and his lawmen uncovered. Nor had it really began with their victims. To quote Grann: “… the murders of the Osage for their headlights were not the result of a single conspiracy orchestrated by Hale. He might have led the bloodiest and longest killing spree. But there were countless other killings—killing that were not included in the official estimates and that, unlike the cases of Lewis or Mollie Burkhart’s family members, were never investigated or even classified as homicides.”

The book includes footnotes, an extensive bibliography, reference to primary sources consulted by the author over six years of research, as well as numerous photographs of victims and killers. However, it lacks an index, which would be helpful in cross checking individuals and helping readers keep the myriad of victims, suspects, and facts square in their heads.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Methodical Murder for Money

Mass murders litter and darken the pages of American history and, with the exception of a few, fade from the collective consciousness with the passing of generations. So was the case of the Osage murders of the early 1920s, until David Grann resurrected this particularly dark passage, even digging deeper, beyond the known facts, to show the slow, systematic massacre involved more deaths and more killers than originally thought. His book stands as an outstanding example of historical journalism.

The Osage Indian murders were a series of murders of Osage tribe members who controlled the headrights (a beneficial interest in a tribal trust fund governing a tribe’s jointly held resources) to Oklahoma land that proved abundant with oil, and that temporarily made the Osage the richest people in the U.S., and possibly the world at that time. For these rights, white businesspeople, professionals, and guardians (people appointed to help tribe members control their finances until the government judged them capable of managing their own resources) conspired to murder and assume control of Osage land, not to mention the gouging of tribe members in the dispensing of advice and management of finances.

Grann relates the story of the Osage murders by beginning with the murders of Anna Brown, Charles Whitehorn, and Brown’s mother Lizzie Kyle. These women were the sister and mother of a focal story in the book, that of Mollie Burkhart. By personalizing and concentrating on one family, the author adds a touch of humanity that makes it easier for readers to understand and identify with the plight of Mollie and all the others who lost family members to what amounted to conspiratorial murders aimed at gaining control over oil rich land.

So corrupt were local officials and business interests, people concerned about the mounting deaths had to call in outside help to stem the murders and bring the killers to justice. This case, then, became young J. Edgar Hoover’s opportunity to advance the cause for a strong national police force, the transforming of his small, nascent Bureau of Investigation into the FBI we know today. Grann covers Hoover and his methods well throughout and in a chapter devoted to the original G-man.

Spearheading the effort on the Bureau’s behalf was an incorruptible and unimpeachable lawman, another relatable focus for Grann and his readers, Tom White. With White in charge and a team of Western lawmen from outside the area and working undercover under his command, the case was broken, though not after numerous frustrations, and a number of culprits, including the most prosperous and so-called upstanding citizen of Osage, the man known as the “King of Osage Hills,” William Hale, were brought to trial and convicted. White comes across as something of a hero, due to his dogged determination. And Hoover gets from the case what he wanted, proof of the need and usefulness of a modern national police force.

As Grann discovered, however, the case never really ended with the convictions of those White and his lawmen uncovered. Nor had it really began with their victims. To quote Grann: “… the murders of the Osage for their headlights were not the result of a single conspiracy orchestrated by Hale. He might have led the bloodiest and longest killing spree. But there were countless other killings—killing that were not included in the official estimates and that, unlike the cases of Lewis or Mollie Burkhart’s family members, were never investigated or even classified as homicides.”

The book includes footnotes, an extensive bibliography, reference to primary sources consulted by the author over six years of research, as well as numerous photographs of victims and killers. However, it lacks an index, which would be helpful in cross checking individuals and helping readers keep the myriad of victims, suspects, and facts square in their heads.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
A strong piece of non-fiction that really found the middle space between history and real-crime. The audiobook is particularly well done, using multiple narrators for the books three sections. ( )
  jscape2000 | Oct 20, 2021 |
A really interesting mix of a true crime story and a history story. This may start off a little slow for some but it picks up very quickly. It's a fairly short read, the book itself is about 290 pages and is super easy to get through. there was less about the birth of the FBI than I thought there would be but I was okay with that because the rest of it was so engaging. Native American history so frequently gets swept under the rug so it was great to be able to read about the Osage people, even if this was set during a horrible time in their history. I definitely want to pick up some of the authors other work. ( )
  AKBouterse | Oct 14, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
De maand van de bloemendoder is een fascinerend en tegelijkertijd gruwelijk boek over de moordpartijen, discriminatie en uitbuiting van Osage indianen aan het begin van de 20e eeuw in Oklahoma. Nadat de Osage, zoals zoveel indianen in de Verenigde Staten, waren verjaagd naar een reservaat in Oklahoma, bleek hier olie gevonden te worden. Hierdoor werden de Osage opeens rijk. Echter dit betekende ook uitbuiting, discriminatie en vele moordpartijen. David Grann is jarenlang bezig geweest met onderzoek naar misstanden die plaatsvonden en De maand van de bloemendoder is het zeer boeiende eindresultaat hiervan...lees verder >
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Grannprimary authorall editionscalculated
Campbell, DannyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carella, MariaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dedekind, HenningTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fontana, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gay, CyrilTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, Anne MarieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Patton, WillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strömberg, RagnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, Jeffrey L.Cartographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There had been no evil to mar that propitious night, because she had listened; there had been no voice of evil; no screech owl had quaveringly disturbed the stillness. She knew this because she had listened all night.
—John Joseph Mathews, Sundown
A conspiracy is everything that ordinary life is not. It's the inside game, cold, sure, undistracted, forever closed off to us. We are the flawed ones, the innocents, trying to make some rough sense of the daily jostle. Conspirators have a logic and a daring beyond our reach. All conspiracies are the same taut story of men who find coherence in some criminal act.  —Don DeLillo, Libra
We have a few mouth-to-mouth tales; we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers letters without salutation or signature, in which men and women who once lived and breathed are now merely initials or nicknames out of some now incomprehensible affection which sound to us like Sanskrit or Chocktaw; we see dimly people, the people in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting, in this shadowy attenuation of time possessing now heroic proportions performing their acts of simple passion and simple violence, impervious to time and inexplicable. —William Faulker, Absalom, Absalom!
Dedication
For my mom and dad
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In April, millions of tiny flowers spread over the blackjack hills and vast prairies in the Osage territory of Oklahoma.
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Page 141
Perhaps because he witnessed this—and other executions—or perhaps because he had seen the effect of the ordeal on his father, or perhaps because he feared the system could doom an innocent man, Tom grew to oppose what was then sometimes called “judicial homicide.” And he came to see the law as a struggle to subdue the violent passions not only in others but also in oneself.
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Presents a true account of the early twentieth-century murders of dozens of wealthy Osage and law-enforcement officials, citing the contributions and missteps of a fledgling FBI that eventually uncovered one of the most chilling conspiracies 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, they 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. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe 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 like Al Spencer, the "Phantom Terror," roamed--many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization's first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

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