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Review – Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon
Author: David Grann
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
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.

Review:
Over the last few months I have been focusing more on reading non-fiction books because I’ve been feeling so burnt out on the vast majority of the fiction books that I’ve been reading (or trying to read). So when the quarterly reading challenge picked this book for the Summer reading challenge, I knew without a doubt which of the 3 choices I was going to read (the other options were Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead). What drew me to this was not on another series of events in history that I’d never heard about, but also because it was how the FBI came to play such an important role in law enforcement (in fact when the events in this book took place, FBI agents couldn’t legally arrest folks, they needed local law enforcement to actual arrest the folks).

The mystery surrounding the deaths of multiple Osage Indians was one that had spanned many years and different types of death, from execution style shootings, to a bombing to poisoning that appeared to mimic illness. There were few commonalities between the victims and witnesses and people trying to solve the murders were also being killed – it was a mystery that would take many years to solve. But there was one commonality between all the victims (but don’t worry, I’m not cruel enough to tell you what or who that is)…I will admit that for me, the solving of the murders and the steps that the FBI took to solve it, was more interesting to me than the background of the FBI (probably because I’ve read enough about J. Edgar Hoover to really not care too much although in part, his personality and persistant was key in the eventual solving of the murders).

More interesting to me was how the US government treated the Osage Indians who were all individually wealthy because of the discover of and subsequent selling of oil leases for their land and yet were treated like (for lack of a better term), delinquent children. Having guardians assigned to these Indians as a way to control them (needing approval to access funds that were rightly theirs, people marking up merchandise the Osage wanted to purchase 4-5x the normal cost and other shady business practices). This was another of those dark periods in history that are valuable to study and yet have been hidden away until an enterprising researcher discovers it and decides to start unraveling the mystery.

Killers of the Flower Moon was an solid mystery and intriguing examination of a lost time period. I found the pictures that were sprinkled throughout of the victims and the FBI agents who eventually solved the crime, as well as the murderer(s) themselves. A solid 4 star read.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Book Review

 

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Review – Shining Sea – Anne Korkeakivi

shining-seaShining Sea
Author: Anne Korkeakivi
Rating: ☆ ☆ ½

Description:
Opening in 1962 with the fatal heart attack of forty-three-year-old Michael Gannon, a WWII veteran and former POW in the Pacific, SHINING SEA plunges into the turbulent lives of his widow and kids over subsequent decades, crisscrossing from the beaches of southern California to the Woodstock rock festival, London’s gritty nightlife in the eighties to Scotland’s remote Inner Hebrides islands, the dry heat of Arizona desert to the fertile farmland of Massachusetts. Beautifully rendered and profoundly moving, SHINING SEA by Anne Korkeakivi is a family story, about the ripple effects of war, the passing down of memory, and the power of the ideal of heroism to lead us astray but also to keep us afloat.

Review:
One source of books that I often find to be intriguing when I’m looking for new books to read are the lists published by various magazines called “most anticipated books of…,” “books you can’t wait to read in…” and other various ways to title lists. Mostly I’m curious to know how the books that are selected for these lists are selected – who determines that they are the “most anticipated” – is it some kind of algorithm based on sales (although since sometimes these posts are done months in advanced of publishing dates I find that hard to rectify); is it based on preferences of the article writer or staff at a magazine…and there is a reason behind my meandering here…I had a profound sense of disappointment as I read Shining Sea and struggle to understand how it ended up on a most anticipated list.

The beginning of the story was interesting with how a family dealt with tragedy, but about 1/3 of the way through it just started to meander a bit – lots of focus on family drama (mostly focused around 1-2 of the family members) rather than the family saga that I was kind of expecting. I also kind of expected more than two generations to be part of the story – maybe I had a bit of an over-inflated sense of expectation because of how it was presented on the Most Anticipated list…I will stay that I enjoyed the earlier portions of the book that had shorter chapters that jumped through different time periods – so there was one chapter that would be in 1965, and then another in 1967 for the first couple parts of the book. Then there was a portion that was a good 100 pages and honestly, there is where the author started losing me…i just wanted engaged in that portion of the story – it just felt out of place. I think that is kind of where I started to wonder exactly what I was reading…up until then i was ambivalent, but that is just where i turned from ok to ehhh….but i did stick it out until the end and while the second to last chapter (prior to the epilogue) was solid and fulfilling – once again after I finished reading the epilogue I was like ehhh….

Maybe i’m just not the right audience for this book – i’m sure there are people who would enjoy it – it just didn’t work for me – 2.5 stars overall.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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