Author: Davis Grann
Published: April 18, 2017
Where I picked up my book: Book Club (Thank you Friends of the Library for donating)
Key Words: Osage Nation, Native American History, Oklahoma, True Crime
My Rating: 4.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
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, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage 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 such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually 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 one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.
A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.
This book gave me all the feels. Mostly anger, outrage, devastation and shame, if I’m being honest. This is a well-written, well-researched and compelling account of a horrific injustice.
First, I will say, I was quite ignorant about this part of history, although that shouldn’t surprise me. Our education system was set up to show white people in a good light, as pioneers and discoverers of lands that we live on and love today. As many of us now know, nothing could be farther from the truth, but that’s the story and schools and curriculum are sticking to, especially when I was growing up. (Side note: I really, really hope that children are being educated to know the real story of Christopher Columbus and what white people did to the Natives that were already living here long before he and his crew came and wreaked havoc. (Here is a pretty cut and dry telling of Christopher Columbus if you’re interested and here is another.)
Second, I have an enormous amount of additional information now as an adult, but I am embarrassed to say, this story of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma fell through the cracks for me. I am outraged and stunned by this history and I’m so thankful that David Grann chose to tell this story. It gives the members of the Osage Indian Nation the energy and attention they deserve and gives us, as readers, a better understanding of the atrocities that occurred in this part of the United States while it was being “discovered.” (Also know as, being taken away from the Osage Indian Nation and other Prairie tribes and being overtaken by white people).
Finally, this is a great book that will keep you riveted while reading and have you reeling for a long time to come. Grann gives voice to people who were murdered for greed, jealousy and pure racism, along with the families that were left wonder in fear as to what happened to their relatives. As a bonus, the book is full of photos throughout that adds that extra layer of understanding. It’s not an easy read, but I would highly recommend picking it up if you haven’t already. And…a movie is being filmed as we speak! As always, let me know your thoughts.