Monday, April 29, 2024
7 – 8:30 p.m.
From best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history
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 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.
In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. The book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals.
But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward Native Americans that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly riveting, but also emotionally devastating.
(From the publisher.)
Reading Group Discussion Questions
1. Trace the “path” by which the Osage Indians eventually landed on the swatch of land in what would become the state of Oklahoma. Talk about their treatment at the hands of the U.S. government and others over the years. What angered or shocked you most?
2. Describe the early days of the Bureau of Investigation, its founding under Theodore Roosevelt, its original purpose, structure and operation, as well as its corruption, ineptness and bungled investigation of the Osage murders.
3. What made young J. Edgar Hoover an unlikely choice to head the Bureau of Investigation? What was his vision for the bureau—why, for instance, a nationalized police force rather than the existing patchwork structure?
4. How would you describe Tom White? Talk about how he approached the investigation into the Osage murders? When he solved the crime, were you surprised by the identity of the mastermind? Or had you figured it out along the way.
5. Grann writes that “history is a merciless judge.” What does he mean by that?
6. Talk about the last 70 pages of the book, in which Grann writes about working with current tribal members to uncover an even deeper conspiracy. By the book’s end, what were your feelings about the Osage nation, its history, and its people?
7. What is the significance of the book’s title?
8. Does this story have relevance to current events? Are there parallels regarding the Standing Rock Lakota nation and the Keystone pipeline?
(Questions issued by LitLovers).)
Additional Book Club Resources
Other Works by David Grann
• The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (2009)
• The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession (2010)
• The White Darkness (2018)
• The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder (2023)
If You Liked Killers of the Flower Moon, may we recommend …
The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
And Still the Waters Run, Angie Debo
Yellow Bird, Sierra Crane Murdoch
Mindhunter, Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas
Midnight in Mexico, Alfredo Corchado
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt
Missing from the Village, Justin Ling
The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
Links of Interest for Your Book Club Discussion
UPROXX, ‘Killers Of The Flower Moon’ Author David Grann On Survival, Storytelling, And Scurvy In His New Book, ‘The Wager’
VIDEO: PBS NewsHour, David Grann, Author of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Takes Questions from Readers”