I have finally finished reading my first book of 2018. It seems like everything that could possibly have distracted me in the past week has distracted me. There was a huge storm in Halifax that knocked out the power for a while, and I've been trying to get myself ready to go back to school tomorrow, so it took me a bit longer to finish this book than I had intended.
Having said that, this was a great book to start the year with. I had seen it on Goodreads before I got it as a gift for Christmas, so I was already well aware of how much positive attention it was getting. It has everything that I love in a non-fiction book - an almost unbelievable true story and a wide range of interesting characters.
Killers of the Flower Moon is a true account a series of murders within the Osage Indian nation in the 1920s and 1930s. Based in Oklahoma, the Osage became some of the richest people in the world when oil was found underneath their land. In the early 1920s, members of the Osage community started to be mysteriously killed off. When all other law enforcement failed to find a culprit, the fledgling FBI stepped in and used the case as a way to gain national attention, and the case ended up being the birth of the modern FBI.
While the book is a murder mystery and heavily features an FBI agent named Tom White, I found the most riveting part of the story to be the history of the Osage Nation and the profound, heartbreaking loss that they endured while the murders were happening.
For most of the book, David Grann writes in the third person. He does not insert himself into the history of the Osage or the massive FBI investigation to solve the murders. It is clear that he has dedicated years to researching the story and conducting numerous interviews with the descendants of the people involved. The last section of the book marks a change in the way Grann writes the story. Titled, "The Reporter", the final section is written in the first person and follows Grann as he visits the Osage territory on a few different occasions. Grann gives the reader an inside look into how he has conducted his research. While I won't give away what Grann discovers in this last section, I can honestly say that it was probably the most interesting part of the book for me.
The final section of the book is a step away from what I am used to from non-fiction books. By using the first person, Grann makes himself a part of a story that otherwise would not include him. But it works. Grann is compassionate and dedicated, and he backs up everything he says with research and evidence. Listening to his own account of the writing process is fascinating, and it does not take away from the tragic story that he is trying to tell. It actually adds to it.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the FBI or policing in general, to those who enjoy true crime, and to people who are interested in human rights and American history. It is a sad story, but an incredible history, and the more people who read this book the better, because it educates the reader on the incredible hardships that Indigenous populations in North America have faced and continue to face.
If you like this you might also like:
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
- Devil in the White City by Erik Larson