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All booksTrue crimeKillers of the Flower Moon
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
True crime

Killers of the Flower Moon

by David Grann

Quick take

A devastating look at the 1920s genocide that targeted the oil-rich Osage Indian Nation.

Why I love it

Sarah Weinman
Writer

I was a fan of David Grann years before we ever met—seeing his byline was a red alert that I was about to read something special. He is a master of real-life mystery, thrilling adventure, and jaw-dropping twists (See his previous book, The Lost City of Z, now a movie, for examples of all). But above all, he is interested, passionately, in what makes people unique, and why they behave in the strangest of ways.

Few tales are stranger than the one contained in Killers of the Flower Moon, a book I consider to be Grann's masterpiece. It resuscitates the true story of the Osage Indians, an Oklahoma-based tribe who were the richest people in the United States in the 1920s, per capita, because of oil buried beneath their land. Oil that was like liquid gold. Oil that so many others salivated to possess and to exploit at all costs. Which is why, one by one, the Osage began to be murdered. Grann’s in-depth reporting and desire for the truth, combined with his palpable empathy for the victims, makes Killers of the Flower Moon true crime at its finest.

We first hear the perspective of Mollie Burkhart, a wealthy Osage woman who watches as her entire family gets picked off and who worries she'll be next. We then get the story of a former Texas Ranger named Tom White, an early member of the FBI, dispatched by J. Edgar Hoover himself to unravel the mounting mystery. And then, once the horror has abated, Grann turns the tables, widening the scope to show just how deep the rot ran, and how the violence against this Indigenous people was more systemic and calculated than first believed. It was a conspiracy of epic proportions.

Killers of the Flower Moon is an amazing, infuriating story of an American injustice. And it is all the more remarkable because of how Grann unspools the story. He never—I checked—uses the word "greed." He doesn't telegraph the outrage. He doesn't have to. History pulsates with this evil, and Grann's job, expertly done, is to show us how the repeated crimes against a marginalized group of people remain relevant today.

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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.

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Preview

Get an early look from the first pages of Killers of the Flower Moon.

Member thoughts

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All (3735)
Love (2184)
Like (1343)
Dislike (208)
3911 ratings
  • 56% Love
  • 34% Like
  • 5% Dislike
  • Mannford, OK

    I grew up in this area and I had no idea about any of these events. It was eerie reading this and knowing the area so well, yet never hearing of the stories of these people and the fortunes they had stolen

  • Norton, OH

    Told in three parts, this horrific historical account of the murders of the Osage during the ‘reign of terror’ showcase the greed, corruption, and soullessness of white male privilege that birthed and

  • Tulsa, OK

    This happened not far from my hometown yet I knew nothing about it! I don’t recall ever learning about it in school (and history’s one of my favorite subjects). Grateful for this masterful retelling.

  • El Cajon, CA

    Slow start built to a chilling conclusion. It's a hard look at a dark time in our history, but built on the hope that uncovering the truth might help heal some of the wounds still raw in the Osage people

  • Washington, NJ

    I’m speechless that the story of the Osage murders were unknown to me before this book, and the fact that it has been buried in history is as despicable as the story itself is heartbreaking. Must read

  • Chicago, IL

    As a friend put it, "Man, white people suck." But in all seriousness, this was an interesting exposé on how low a whole lot of people were willing to go for money. Nonfiction that read like a novel.

  • Eden Prairie, MN

    This is a chilling tale told well. I'm glad Grann was able to write this book, not only to raise awareness of what happened to the Osage but also to give answers to those whose families were affected

  • Apex, NC

    KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON invokes the last remnants of the old west, Indians, the Texas Rangers, and the murders of over 20 oil wealthy Osage Indians. The FBI is finally brought in to find the killer

  • Northbrook, IL

    I really enjoyed this book. I have my degree in History, and never once did this topic come up. It saddens me that these events took place, and it's unfortunate to think people today are still affecte

  • Pooler, GA

    This book was heartbreaking, shocking (and yet, not shocking), suspenseful, intriguing, and so very well written. I knew nothing of the FBI's origins, nor the massacre of the Osage native population.

  • Tuttle, OK

    Such a captivating and heart wrenching story! The horrible tragedies caused by greed will leave you frustrated and angry. The feelings are worth the unique view into Native American & Oklahoma history

  • Oregon city, OR

    History has so much to teach us about who we are and what we are capable of doing. My gut reaction was so viseral while reading this book. Unbelievable how people view others who are not their race

  • Independence , MO

    If the events of this book don't make you angry then you aren't human. The shocking treatment of Native Americans went beyond even what I already knew. Part mystery, this eye opening book is perfect.

  • Chicopee, MA

    It's amazing to realize there are whole parts of American history never taught in classrooms. Grann, laid this story bare in a clear a clear, forthright manner, making it both riveting and horrifying.

  • Fairview, NC

    This book was both amazing and devastating. I read the whole book within two days. It is a must-read to bring to light the horrors that occurred and were later seemingly forgotten in American history.

  • Ephrata, PA

    I was drawn into an all too familiar world: where people with power use it to enrich themselves. They are unconcerned about who gets hurt. The book's real-life heros, Tom and company, redeem humanity.

  • Fishers , IN

    This book is beyond words! It is powerful & the story is impactful! It's a bit of a hard read because there are so many characters, but it was so good! I have recommended it many people who also love!

  • Covington, KY

    A non-fiction story, written by a literary genius. Tells a story of something you never learned about it school and keeps you reading. Ended up reading it out loud to my husband and he loved it too!

  • Baltimore , MD

    Great writing and research exposing not just the fbi investigation of the Osage murders but the pervasive racism and manipulation of the Osage at the hands of the entire community... stunning and sad

  • Tulsa, OK

    I grew up in Okla. and have lived in the county next to present day Osage County for the last 23 years and have never heard this important piece of my state's history. Well researched and fascinating.

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