Killers of the Flower Moon

Author: Davis Grann 

Published: April 18, 2017

Publisher: Doubleday

Where I picked up my book: Book Club (Thank you Friends of the Library for donating)

Key Words: Osage Nation, Native American History, Oklahoma, True Crime

My Rating: 4.5


Synopsis (via Goodreads):

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian 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, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually 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 one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

My Thoughts:

This book gave me all the feels. Mostly anger, outrage, devastation and shame, if I’m being honest. This is a well-written, well-researched and compelling account of a horrific injustice.

First, I will say, I was quite ignorant about this part of history, although that shouldn’t surprise me. Our education system was set up to show white people in a good light, as pioneers and discoverers of lands that we live on and love today. As many of us now know, nothing could be farther from the truth, but that’s the story and schools and curriculum are sticking to, especially when I was growing up. (Side note: I really, really hope that children are being educated to know the real story of Christopher Columbus and what white people did to the Natives that were already living here long before he and his crew came and wreaked havoc. (Here is a pretty cut and dry telling of Christopher Columbus if you’re interested and here is another.)

Second, I have an enormous amount of additional information now as an adult, but I am embarrassed to say, this story of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma fell through the cracks for me. I am outraged and stunned by this history and I’m so thankful that David Grann chose to tell this story. It gives the members of the Osage Indian Nation the energy and attention they deserve and gives us, as readers, a better understanding of the atrocities that occurred in this part of the United States while it was being “discovered.” (Also know as, being taken away from the Osage Indian Nation and other Prairie tribes and being overtaken by white people).

Finally, this is a great book that will keep you riveted while reading and have you reeling for a long time to come. Grann gives voice to people who were murdered for greed, jealousy and pure racism, along with the families that were left wonder in fear as to what happened to their relatives. As a bonus, the book is full of photos throughout that adds that extra layer of understanding. It’s not an easy read, but I would highly recommend picking it up if you haven’t already. And…a movie is being filmed as we speak! As always, let me know your thoughts.

bookishfolk…read instead.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Author: Michelle McNamara

Published: February 27, 2018

Publisher: Harper

Where I picked up my book: Talking Leaves in Buffalo, NY

Key Words: true crime, serial killer, mystery

My Rating: 4 stars


Synopsis (via Goodreads):

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

My Thoughts:

A: I purposely bought this book on a trip so that I could read it on the plane where there was no chance of a serial killer breaking into the window and killing me, and yet…I was still terrified. I actually had a moment where I looked around to make eye contact with the people around me to see how psychotic they looked and if there was a chance they could be a killer. (I’m pretty sure the only psychotic looking one at this point was me). And don’t even get me started on what I was thinking during our layover. B: This is the most terrifying book I have ever read and I don’t know a damn soul who could read it at night. C: The killer was caught shortly after the book was published and that has made some people feel at ease. Umm…there are other people out there capable of this sort of thing (hopefully not many, but still). I’m so so glad he has been caught, but it has not lessened my fear factor one iota. Moving on…

First, I was enamored with McNamara’s style of writing while reading this book. It felt like a friend was allowing me into her world. It is above and beyond any non-fiction book I’ve ever read. I should probably preface this by saying that I’ve never read a true crime novel, but from what I hear, McNamara’s writing far exceeds that genre’s typical writing as well. It’s thorough, intense, well researched, but it wasn’t dry at all and kept me completely enthralled the entire time. We read about each victim and the circumstances surrounding their home and attack, but periodically, Michelle would insert a chapter about her as a researcher and that interested me far more than the killer or the victim’s stories. Or maybe that was my coping mechanism? But either way, I loved to see, from the writers perspective, what was going on while all of this research was happening. She was totally obsessed and absorbed in the research, and that was made clear in these chapters. Side note: I remember writing my final thesis in undergrad and completely fell down a rabbit hole of research and books and magazines and web searches. I was totally engrossed in the topic (transcendentalism for those of you that care about that sort of thing), and I can remember walking to class, or getting a coffee, and just totally obsessing over the subject regardless of what was going on around me. At one point in the book, McNamara mentions completely forgetting her anniversary and I, 100%, can see that happening when you’re so riveted in the research. It becomes you. Now, transcendentalism and Emerson and Thoreau are worthy of a rabbit hole, but I can’t even begin to imagine what a rabbit hole into a free-roaming serial killer and rapist would do to the researcher.

Second, I think she gave honor to each victim in the book. She is truthful, honest and pays homage to each person and their family in a way that I have never quite seen before. It’s a brutal topic, but somehow, Michelle handles it with grace and complete integrity for each of the victims.

Third, how in the HELL did this psychopath evade the cops and authorities for this many years?! Seriously…3 minutes after reading the last sentence, I started researching documentaries and news specials about his capture. Not because I want to hear about the brutality of his actions (at all), but I want to know how in the hell he got away with this and was never caught until now.

This book is chilling, fascinating and terrifying. It will leave you looking over your shoulder, walking a little faster at night (or lets get real, not walking at night for a long while), locking windows, installing motion detector lights in your yard, and double checking doors. You won’t want to put it down, but probably will at night. I am still having trouble wrapping my head around this one, but can rest (maybe just slightly) better knowing that this psychopath has been caught. McNamara’s passion shines through in this book and although it’s tragic that she passed away before he was caught, I can’t help but think her research, vigor, and obsessiveness helped bring this person to justice and give his victims a bit of peace.

bookishfolk…read instead.