I’d been so tempted by this book but for some reason I waited and waited until finally it got nominated for the National Book Award. Then I waited some more. Why? Because the narrator was NOT going to be to my liking. I listened to a sample and read the reviews – nope. But it stayed on my wish list until I really didn’t know what to read next and I also figured maybe if I got the Kindle book along with the Audible version I could handle it. Well – that worked pretty well after I got through the first third of the book.
Killers of the Flower Moon
by David Grann
2017 / 340 pages (Kindle)
read by Anne Marie Lee, Will Patton, Danny Campbell 8h 53m
rating: 8.75 / historical true crime
(read and listened)
This is a very good book. The audible experience almost ruins it but, as a whole, not quite. The thing is that although Anne Marie is a totally poor fit, – like a little chirpy bird telling a really grim story – the second narrator is Will Patton. Oh be still my heart, yes! He’s one of my favorites (from James Lee Burke books). And I wasn’t familiar with Danny Campbell so that was neutral.
I understand the point of the producers trying this book with three narrators. The book is divided into three major parts called “Chronicles.” They are; . “The Marked Woman;” “The Evidence Man:” and “The Reporter.”
“The Marked Woman” focuses on a woman named Mollie Burkhart, a resident of the Osage settlement town of Gray Horse whose family was decimated by the murders of 1924. Mollie’s sister was one of the first Indians killed in the disaster. The producer’s idea was that this part of the story would be narrated by a woman’s voice. Great idea – wrong woman. This section is really good in the book – it has photos of the family and biographical details about their lives. But more than 20 other people were killed in this horrific series of murders – most of them Osage Indians, newly rich from an oil boom.
- Epigraph by Don DeLillo
I kept going and when I got to “The Evidence Man” (this is from the book) – the voice changed to that of Will Patton. Oh, I smiled and smiled. He reads with a bit more southern drawl than a native Oklahoman and he’s considerably faster than Lee, but it works – kind of – better anyway. Patton is also overly dramatic – to my tastes anyway. This part tells the story of FBI lead agent on the case, Tom White, and his investigation of the whole mess under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover and the newly formed FBI. There are several threads, many names and more than one trial as well as a bit of the aftermath for a few of the individuals as well as the FBI. This is page-turning. And the last lines are a foreshadowing cliffhanger.
Chronicle Three, “The Reporter,” is the 1st person story of Grann’s research and other matters. He reports on his actual visits to some of the locations and interviews with a few relevant people still living – descendants of the Osage families affected. He also tries to follow some leads on the several unresolved associated murders and in so doing reveals that there were many more murders than the 24 counted by the officials. The total was “in the scores if not the hundreds.” The main motive was to get the headrights from the victims, often wives and children. According to one agent, there was a “culture of killing” and it went from between 1907 to 1923 and beyond, maybe into the 1930s. That period of time was not called the “Reign of Terror” for nothing. This Part is like a long epilogue but it gets the story up to date and in a way makes the story alive and be relevant.
There are plenty of photos in the book and the source notes are very good – Grann did a lot of research and uses extensive primary and unpublished sources.