Skip to main content

Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI

David Grann


A narrative history of a largely forgotten mass murder. It's a very American tale, in many ways: the Osage Native American Nation is exiled from its homelands and forced to live on a rocky and barren reservation of worthless land – which then turns out to sit on top of huge oil deposits. In many ways the tribe is lucky, because the laws of the US have advanced sufficiently that they are allowed to licence their oil rather than being moved on again; in other ways they are unlucky because, in order to avoid making native rich too easily, a system of "guardianship" is instituted whereby "incompetent" Native Americans have their interests looked after by local whites, which turns out to be an open invitation for fraud, theft, and murder. It becomes such an industry that husbands can honestly say, when asked their profession, "I married an Osage".

The killings and the investigation are carefully and dramatically described, but the real sting is in the tail, the last chapter that demonstrates how the investigations were really only the tip of an iceberg that gave rise to a huge number of unexplained and unexamined deaths as whites sought control of the oil revenues. While the case gave rise to the FBI in its modern form (and was used ruthlessly by J. Edgar Hoover), its investigation was plainly deficient and limited in order to generate maximum victory with limited wider scandal. It's an open question how many other allegedly "closed" cases hide a similar secret.

4/5. Finished 26 May 2018.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Share this post to:


Comments powered by Disqus