Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, narrated by Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, and Danny Campbell (audio)

This audiobook did something different than others I've listened to and I liked it: it had three narrators. Now, I've had audiobooks where one voice was read by a different narrator, but this book was divided into three sections, and each section had a different focus or "main character," and the three narrators of those three sections were obviously chosen to represent those three narrations, which was very effective.

The book starts off with the story of Mollie Burkhart, an Osage Indian woman, who watched as her sisters and mother were killed off, one by one, by various means: shot, poisoned, and one's house was blown up. She absolutely had to be terrified that she was next. And her diabetes did get dramatically, and suspiciously worse for a while, until she was removed from the care of the local doctors. But her family were not the only ones being targeted and killed for their "head rights," or their rights to the oil under the Oklahoma reservation. In the 1920s, at least two dozen Osage were murdered. That kind of killing spree ought to still be in our cultural consciousness, but it isn't. It also ought to be because these investigations lead to the founding of the FBI.

That's the second half of the story, told by a gravely-voiced Westerner. The newly formed Bureau of Investigation had no power of arrest, and its members weren't allowed to carry guns. They were solely supposed to investigate. Some members went undercover to try to infiltrate the local society. Most though went in as lawmen, questioning and interviewing and doing the usual legwork. Unfortunately, most people weren't talking. It seems like everyone knew more than they were saying, but they were all awfully scared of someone.

Finally, in the third part of the book, the author David Grann, becomes part of the story as he investigates on the murders that was never solved. When the BI does "solve," them, they assume the bad guy(s) they've fingered is/are good for all of the murders, and basically just stop investigating all of them. One family gets in touch with Grann and he goes back through all of the original material in archives and pieces together the larger puzzle, uncovering some brand-new revelations along the way.

The story is riveting. It's wretched that this happened, and we make it worse by forgetting, what was one of the largest mass murders in American history. It's interesting to hear about how the BI (FBI) was changing at this time and how Hoover went out of his way to deny identifying the bureau agents who were instrumental in solving the case, as they didn't fit his desired look of an agent: young, Ivy League-educated, clean-cut. Of course that type of agent wouldn't have been able to make much headway in Osage County, Oklahoma, and these men did. Laws were changed after these murders, allowing the Osage more control over their own money, and preventing the situation that made murder so attractive for a while in this area. It's a fascinating sliver of history, and one even more important to know about as it was so impactful on the Osage people.

I downloaded this eaudiobook through my library via Cloud Library.

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