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Ellen’s Pick of the Week: Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

“An Indian Affairs agent said,’The question will suggest itself, which of these people are the savages?’”

― David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon

Mollie Burkhart (second from right) lost all three of her sisters under suspicious circumstances. Rita Smith (left) died in an explosion, Anna Brown (second from left) was shot in the head and Minnie Smith (right) died of what doctors referred to as a “peculiar wasting illness.” The Osage National Museum/Courtesy of Doubleday




After oil was discovered on their lands in the 1920s, the Osage people of Oklahoma became some of the wealthiest in the United States. And then the killings began.

At first, no one thought much about the deaths of Molly Burkhart’s wealthy young sisters, Minnie who died of a wasting disease or Anna, known to party hard, who was found dead with a bullet in her head. Only when a third Osage man was found with a bullet in his head near the same spot as Anna’s, did it start to seem suspicious to the authorities and the local press. More than two dozen wealthy Osage, including the rest of Molly’s family, died of mysterious causes between 1920 and 1924 which the locals still call the Osage Reign of Terror.

Author David Gann’s second book,  Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,  tells the gripping story of the Osage murders, their cover-up and the intrepid federal investigators who finally broke the case in this compelling book of narrative nonfiction (nonfiction that reads like fiction)—also known as nonfiction for fiction lovers.

We get to know Molly Burkhart who lived in fear as her family members kept dying mysteriously, and Tom White, a former Texas Ranger who joined the FBI in its earliest days and who led the team investigating the Osage murders. Twenty-nine-year old J. Edgar Hoover had just been appointed as head of the new FBI and hoped that solving this case would prove the worth of his agency to the many doubters in Washington. Undercover investigators, wealthy oilmen with dark secrets, murdered witnesses and bungled investigations are woven together in David Grann’s scathing depiction of a lawless town run by despicable men, supported by misguided laws, murdering innocent men and women and one law man who refuses to give up. Highly recommended.

If you would like to see more picture of the folks described in this book, this link will take you to the site where you can learn more and this link will take you to the site.

Author David Grann and his second book

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