Killers of the Flower Moon : The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI | Review


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This novel follows the murders of numerous Osage members. Author David Grann blends journalistic and narrative styles to set this story apart from others.

     Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann is an incredible journalistic novel that follows the story of the Osage, a tribe of Native Americans, during the early 20th century. After the different Native American tribes have been relocated to small desolate territories around the country, the Osage find themselves in a dry rocky environment that would later become an area in Oklahoma. Upon settling there, the Osage soon find that the area is filled with oil springs, and the tribe becomes rich over the next several decades. Fast forward to the 1910s, where the bulk of the story takes place, and the tribe is being pushed around by the government and other rich white folk who want their hands on the fortune.

     The novel tells the story of the murders of several wealthy Osage that occur periodically over the early 20th century. It showcases the chaos regarding solving the cases, which ended up developing the FBI into a large branch of the government, and does it through a combination of several perspectives and writing styles that all work together to create a gripping narrative.

     It goes without saying that a Journalistic style novel is not the same as those in the format of a narrative, but Grann does a great job of almost merging the two writing styles. While the first chronicle in the novel, “The Marked Woman,” is told from an external perspective,  the narrator, Mollie Burkhart, still feels like a main character who the reader can get behind and feel like. In tandem with this, the information included in this section is all that someone living in the moment like Mollie could have known. Because of this, the reader feels in the moment, gripping to the narrative. 

     Throughout chronicle one, the reader learns of people close to and around Mollie murdered in cold blood. It begins with her close friend, Anna Brown, but moves to others she knows, like her sister Rita and her husband. The murders are described in great detail and in ways that drag the moment on as if the reader is there.

     So, chronicle one does a great job of indulging the reader and making them yearn for the truth as to what is happening. It’s filled with important context, information that does a great job of world building and manages to make the reader feel like they are another person in the story. After all this build up from chronicle one, chronicle two, “The Evidence Man,” blasts the reader away in a barrage of answers they have been waiting for from the perspective of the detective that, in its own new and refreshing way, encapsulates the reader.

     Tom White is the main character in the chronicle. The reader gets an introduction to him, his background, and then sees him thrown into the Osage mess of murders. 

     While the novel stays in it’s journalistic style, the way it introduces new characters and leads to the culprit, or culprits, feels like a detective novel. Just as chronicle one does, the placement of when the reader learns information or leads, it’s in tandem with the characters. They are not watching the character get the answer. They are getting to the answer alongside characters.

     The latter half of the second chronicle is extremely gripping as the reader learns of the truth as to who was involved, how close they were to characters the reader has known, and the way Grann introduces the mastermind behind the crimes and makes him sound like a true villain.

     The latter half of chronicle two is practically a 50-page long climax, but the remaining portion of the book is the weaker aspect of the novel. It should be said that the final few pages of chronicle two are somewhat anticlimactic, as they spend a lot of time on Tom White after the case.

     Chronicle three, “The Reporter,” follows Grann himself as he talks to the descendants of characters involved, mostly Osage. It provides a good sense of closure to the story, but also drags on for more than it should. 

     Overall, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann is a great journalistic novel. While from an external perspective that is in less of a narrative form, the telling and retention of information allows the reader to connect with the characters more, and makes moments where characters die or something important happens all the more meaningful, and it does not hold back with descriptiveness. 

     Chronicle one sets up the perfect amount of mystery and tension that when Tom White comes around and starts uncovering the truth about what is going on, every discovery he makes takes a lot of effort but is extremely shocking. After the gripping climax that is the middle of chronicle two, the reader gets satisfying closure with those involved in the story directly

     While chronicle three may seem like it drags on for a little too long, it takes the intensity that is the first two chronicles, and hits home to the reader that this was not that long ago, and how those involved are still recovering from the chaotic tragedy.

     This novel is extremely good, and if you are at all interested in the premise you will not be disappointed.