Skip to main content
PBS logo

Book Reviews of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Killers of the Flower Moon The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
Author: David Grann
Audio Books swap for two (2) credits.
ISBN-13: 9781984883865
ISBN-10: 1984883860
Publication Date: 3/5/2019
Edition: Unabridged

0 stars, based on 0 rating
Publisher: Random House Audio
Book Type: Audio CD
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

16 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

trekie70 avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 291 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
Killers of the Flower Moon" is an excellent book about the Government's mistreatment of the Osage Indians of OK in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a well-written, in-depth look at what became on of the first murder cases the newly created Federal Bureau of Investigation handled, namely the string of mysterious deaths that occurred among the Osage once oil was discovered on their OK reservation. I highly recommend this book to history buffs and anyone who wants to learn some of the history of our country that you won't find in any textbook.
NancyAZ avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 88 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
This is a powerful work of investigative history which many people are unaware of and I'm glad Mr. Grann decided to tell this story. It is a very interesting but unfortunately sad piece of American history. I enjoyed learning everything that was disclosed in the book but I feel there were some details that could have been left out. At times the book got bogged down with too many details but it is definitely a story worth telling.

A favorite quote from the book:

"History is a merciless judge. It lays bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps and exposes our most intimate secrets, wielding the power of hindsight like an arrogant detective who seems to know the end of the mystery from the outset."
reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 628 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Excellent historical book about the murder of many of the Osage Indian tribe by others((mostly whites)for their oil rights. Had never heard this story before; just another hidden atrocity done to the Native Americans and buried. Lots of interesting historical information about the Texas Rangers and the founding of the FBI.
VolunteerVal avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 592 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
(Review written 8/2/2019)

I read Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann for my IRL book club, and we had a very interesting discussion of it. As its subtitle states, this non-fiction title explores the Osage murders that were committed in 1920s Oklahoma. The investigation is the âcreation storyâ of the FBI, which relied having on the vastly inflated ego of J. Edgar Hoover.

This is sadly another very dark chapter in US history of the abuses of Native Americans that is seldom included in textbooks. The book was very readable even though it's crammed with names, dates, and other facts. I did some skimming in the middle, but was engrossed in the beginning and ending.
reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 168 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
My favorite read of 2018! I was absolutely blown away by the history in this book that I had never heard before. Absolutely gripping, I read it in three days. During the 1920s, the people of the Osage Indian Nation were the richest per capita in the world due to huge oil reserves on their land. Then they mysteriously began to die under strange circumstances. Anyone who began to investigate the murders also began to be murdered. The newly created FBI took up the case and began to expose a truly horrific plot to systematically get rid of the Osage and claim the land (and money).
reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 147 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Got this book through I had put it on my wish list after seeing it on someone else's list of good books. Started it last week and finished it today (11/6/2020). I read a lot of books--mostly fiction--and enjoyed this book. I had never heard of the "Reign of Terror." I was shocked at the number of suspicious deaths that occurred among the Osage tribe as well as how many people were involved in sweeping it all under the rug. I also had no idea how the FBI came about. As I was reading, I thought that this story should be made into a movie or a documentary. Contrary to many of the folks who gave this book one or two stars (on Amazon), I thought the book was well written and interesting.
susieqmillsacoustics avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 1062 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I found this book to be compelling. I had no idea about this chapter of Oklahoma's dark history. So many brutal murders and such mishandling of investigations and corruption run amok! I admire the tenacity of White, the agent who solved some of these murders and brought "some" justice. A chilling read.
hardtack avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 2554 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I've always been interested in this aspect of American history every since I saw "The FBI Story," starring Jimmy Stewart when I was a kid.

The author does a good job of relating the whole story, and I particularly like his negative allusions about J. Edgar Hoover.

The real tragedy is now revealed until the end of the book, all of the murders which were never revealed.
perryfran avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 1175 more book reviews
This was really a shocking story about what happened to the Osage Indians in Oklahoma in the 1920s. The Osage at that time were the richest people per capita in the world. They received their wealth from the oil that was discovered under their land. Many of them had multiple vehicles, chauffeurs, servants, built mansions, and sent their children away to school. But then the Osage began to be systematically murdered for their wealth. This book focuses on the family of Mollie Burkhart whose sisters and mother were all killed in a conspiracy to obtain their oil rights. The killings eventually brought in the Bureau of Investigation which would later become the FBI. The chief investigator, Tom White, was sent there by J. Edgar Hoover and was able to identify a conspiracy among the well-respected citizenry of the county and the case was eventually closed. The official number of Osage that were killed was 24 but Grann was able to determine that hundreds were probably killed and that the conspiracy of killing was much more widespread.

What happened to the Osage is pretty much forgotten today although it was included in the movie The FBI Story from 1959 which starred Jimmy Stewart. This book was both shocking and engrossing. It was a real page-turner that read like a murder mystery. It masterfully told a forgotten part of the many atrocities that were suffered by the Native Americans at the hand of greedy and despicable people looking for easy money. I would highly recommend this one.
cathyskye avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 2260 more book reviews
Author David Grann spent years doing research and uncovering new evidence in writing Killers of the Flower Moon. Since I was a fan of his from reading The Lost City of Z, I expected this latest book to be the sort of non-fiction I love: the kind that reads like the best fiction. I was not disappointed. What I did not expect was just how infuriated I would become by reading it.

Having been a huge horse racing fan when I was a teenager, I knew about the wealth of the Osage Nation in the 1920s. One of the Osage owned a winner of the Kentucky Derby. But that knowledge was just cursory. I had no idea how rich the Osage really were, and I certainly didn't have a clue that the government didn't trust them with all that money. I should not have been so naive. It had to madden many whites that, although they'd shoved the Osage onto a piece of land they deemed unfit for themselves, oil would be discovered and the Osage would turn out to be the wealthiest people in the world. The one way they had of trying to horn in on this wealth was by declaring that the Osage were not fit to use their own money wisely. In many cases whites were put in charge of the families' money, and they gave their wards allowances (and themselves large fees for their business knowledge).

Why on earth should I be so surprised that this greed would escalate to murder? It is the natural progression after all. To this day, the Osage have trust issues, and who can blame them? They tried to get dozens of murders investigated, but instead the killings were covered up. What Grann did in Killers of the Flower Moon was to dig deeper and deeper and expose just how huge the problem actually was. As I read, words like horrifying, unspeakable, and several others flashed through my mind.

This is an uncomfortable read for anyone with a conscience; nevertheless, it is a fascinating and important one. I highly recommend it. It's a mesmerizing true historical mystery that grabs you and won't let you go.
njmom3 avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 1361 more book reviews
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann - The history is disturbing and chilling, made even more so because it is an actual history not fiction. The theme is ages old, forever present in this world. People kill for money. The extent to which such greed can reach is scary in the history of the Osage murders. The book is intense and compelling and relevant today.

Read my complete review at

Reviewed for NetGalley
reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 215 more book reviews
Oh my goodness what a read. I absolutely enjoyed this book, even though it left me heart broken. A non-fiction work that reads like your favorite fictional thriller. As a lover of history, I knew nothing about this time period or about this subject. I was quickly immersed and sucked in to the story. The lives of these people were extraordinary and what they went through, unbelievable. A must read for everyone!
reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 99 more book reviews
Excellent. Very informative.
MKSbooklady avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 945 more book reviews
This is a part of American history I had never heard about. The Osage Indians were abused and killed by many, including their own families. For money. Definitely a good history book to read if you are interested in American history, Native American History, crime, or the beginnings of the FBI. Lots of pictures will help you keep all of the characters straight-especially the 'lawmen' that are throughout this book. A good read.
terez93 avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 273 more book reviews
"White people in Oklahoma thought no more of killing an Indian than they did in 1724."
-John Ramsey, murderer of Henry Roan Horse

Scarcely a hundred years ago, one of the most shameful episodes in American history occurred over a four-year period (at least officially), now known as the Reign of Terror (1921-1926). It also appears that, tragically, the phenomenon of missing indigenous women is nothing new. In short, oil-rich Osage tribal members were being mercilessly slaughtered for their oil rights, often by those charged with protecting them and their financial interests, which resulted in the deaths of untold hundreds of innocent victims: men, women and children.

And almost no one in the US, aside from the descendants of those affected, knows anything about it.

This thoroughly researched and shocking expose addresses the events known as the Osage Murders, when an acknowledged sixty or so full-blood Osage (but in reality, the total is likely far higher) were murdered by an assorted cast of characters, including spouses, step-children, longtime "friends" and acquaintances, associates, business partners, court-appointed "guardians," and even public officials, for the purpose of appropriating for their own gain their victims' oil rights and wealth. These events are yet another example of the appalling way in which native peoples have been treated since the "discovery" of the New World more than half a millennium ago.

Nothing new under the sun.

In 1897, oil was discovered on, or rather, beneath, the Osage Reservation, a backwater in the middle of nowhere, under land then considered useless, to which the Osage tribe had been relocated, to an area no one else then wanted. Subsequently, the federal government allotted 657 acres to each Osage on the tribal rolls in 1907, as Oklahoma was made a state. Each person was issued "headrights" to royalties from oil production based on their allotments of land, colloquially known as the Underground Reservation. Drilling contracts were auctioned off annually, under what was known as the Million Dollar Elm, to the likes of Getty, Philips and other barons, which often kicked off bidding wars which generated millions each year. The tribe also communally held the mineral rights to the property as well.

By 1920, with the advent of gas-powered vehicles and increasingly electric-powered homes, the oil market exploded, making the Osage some of the richest people in the world. Think on the level of Jean Paul Getty - who, incidentally, had his finger in this pie, too, as did many more oil barons who were once household names. In 1923 alone, in fact, oil contracts generated more than $30 million, today the equivalent of some $400 million. Alas, the wealth didn't last, as the wells were soon bled dry - but for a few decades, at least, the Osage were able to live a life of luxury: they bought cars on the order of modern-day Lamborghinis, McLarens or Ferarris, took whirlwind trips to Europe, and sent their children to the most prestigious private schools in the country.

Envious eyes took notice, however, and the unscrupulous soon made their move.

In one of the most outrageous actions in US history - and, when dealing with Native Americans, that's saying something - in 1921, the US Congress passed a law, seemingly more out of envy that Native Americans should enjoy wealth denied to white Americans than any desire to protect, that required courts to appoint "guardians" for each Osage of half-blood or more in ancestry, to manage their money until the owners of the headrights could demonstrate "competency," whatever that meant. What resulted was unbridled greed, rampant corruption, and the systematic and widespread looting of vulnerable Americans for their money... which included untold hundreds of murders.

In a system seemingly designed to fail, for the Osage, at least, the courts appointed typically white lawyers or "businessmen," most of whom were unscrupulous at best, but were sometimes even known criminals, who in turn manipulated the legal system to steal not only Osage land, their royalties, rights and money, but also their lives. The 24 "guardians"/crooks charged with corruption by the Department of the Interior in 1925, who had robbed their victims of untold millions, was just the tip of the iceberg.

As the author notes, on May 27, 1921, just over a century ago, now, local hunters discovered the badly decomposed body of Anna Brown, a wealthy, full-blood Osage woman, in a ravine. Initially ruled an accidental death due to alcohol poisoning, it was shortly discovered that Anna had been shot in the back of the head; what's more, multiple additional members of her family were also killed soon thereafter, including her mother, cousin, and her sister and brother-in-law, whose house was bombed. The murders continued unabated. By 1925, it was determined that some 60 Osage had died under suspicious circumstances, their land and rights granted to so-called "guardians."

Enter the Bureau of Investigation, an upstart alphabet agency which became the FBI in later years. Under the auspices of J. Edgar Hoover, investigators over the course of a two-year inquiry determined that multiple deaths had resulted from contract killings, for the purpose of obtaining the victims' oil and mineral royalties, which could run into the millions. Through many twists and turns, it was determined that self-described "King of the Osage Hills," one William Hale, a wealthy local cattle baron, was behind many of the killings, including Anna Brown's and those of many of her relatives, in an attempt to wipe out her entire family for the purpose of inheriting the entire family fortune.

Well-connected and, seemingly untouchable, Hale persuaded one of his nephews to marry Mollie Kyle, and then conveniently arranged for the murders of all her sisters, brother-in-law, mother and cousin, to cash in life insurance policies and seize the headrights of all the family members. He also had multiple witnesses and accomplices murdered in the process, crimes which were then covered up by complicit police, judges, local investigators, and even doctors, who concealed or destroyed evidence.

In a somewhat surprising turn, Hale, his nephews, and one of his ranch hands were actually convinced of first-degree murder. All were sent to prison, serving typically a fraction of their life sentences. One silver lining was that in 1925, after seeing the light and the damage it had done, the US Congress passed a further law prohibiting non-Osage who were less than half-bloods from inheriting headrights from Osage lands. Surviving sister Mollie Burkhart, whose own husband killed her sister, was involved in or had knowledge of the deaths of her other family members... and who was slowly poisoning her as well, all for the purpose of obtaining her family's money, was instrumental in getting this unjust and racist law overturned. "At forty-four, Mollie could finally spend her money as she pleased, and was recognized as a full-fledged American citizen."

But only AFTER she proved "competency."

It was only in the year 2000, however, that the Osage tribe filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging mismanagement of the trust assets and historical losses. In 2011, the US government settled for $380 million, the largest trust settlement with a single tribe in US history. These efforts did nothing to bring back the people murdered as a result of this appalling, unjust law, which kept some of the wealthiest citizens in the world as perpetual children, placing them under the dominion of people who sought only their destruction.

The significance of these events cannot be overstated. It is unfathomable that the US government required adult men and women to have a "guardian" and to seek permission to spend their own money, even to pay for medical care, which, it turns out, was often denied or delayed, with the specific intent of bringing about their premature deaths, of even children, so that the overlords could inherit their wealth. The manner in which native peoples have been treated by the US government is unspeakably shameful, and continues to the present day, as demonstrated by the class-action lawsuit over these events which was settled more than a hundred years later.

And, the author notes, in the wake of more digging, which resulted from multiple inquiries of still-grieving extended family members who had long suspected that their ancestors had likewise been murdered: the killings of innocent native peoples didn't start with Anna Brown, and didn't conclude with the conviction of Hale and his ilk. The author estimates that some 600 or so documented deaths were likely murder, facilitated or committed directly by these so-called guardians, robber barons, for the specific intent of stealing the wealth of those they were legally responsible for.

And even the lawmen who admittedly did bring at least some of the killers to some type of justice got in on the action, using these events for their own purposes and self-aggrandizement. The title is a bit of a misnomer: this case didn't exactly result in the "Birth of the FBI," but Hoover was never one to let a good tragedy go to waste, and himself shamelessly exploited these events for his own gain, specifically power: "Recognizing that the new modes of public relations could expand his bureaucratic power and instill a cult of personality, Hoover asked White [the lead investigator into the Brown murder] to send him information he could share with the press," to further his own ends. This case probably did have some effect on the development of the FBI, but other events, especially the organized crime which exploded with Prohibition in the 1920s, was at least equally responsible.

This book, and those like it, should be required reading for all high school and college history students. I recommend it for all Americans as essential reading, to understand the plight of native people, who are still treated as non-citizens, and some would argue, non-humans. How pernicious and pervasive a problem is the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women? There's a national day for it: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Awareness Day is held on May 5. That's actually the birthday of Hanna Harris, another young, indigenous woman who was only 21 when she was murdered on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana. Indigenous people whose relatives have gone missing or have been killed wear red, a color synonymous with raising awareness about the disproportionate number of Indigenous victims. Another symbol is a red hand print worn across the mouth. Red dresses have also become a symbol of awareness of this issue.

There are few books I have read which absolutely make my blood boil... but this is one of them. It's utterly disheartening that so few Americans even know of these events, and those like them - the recent discovery of mass graves at internment-camp "boarding schools," which were nothing less than concentration camps for native children, illustrate the long and shameful history of failures in the way the US has treated First Nation peoples. Nothing will change until we learn of past events, and strive to do better.
joann avatar reviewed Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI on + 399 more book reviews
For four years, in the 1920's, the richest people per capita in the world were the members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. They lived in mansions on their oil-rich land.
Then they are being killed. Mollie Burkhart watched her family die, one by one. They were shot, poisoned, blown up.
Other Osage natives were being killed and white people were inheriting their headrights. Each tribe member had a guardian, who had the right to handle any money that the tribe member could spend.
While the trials that took place say that this rampage lasted 4 years, there were numerous deaths that were never attributed for. There are probably about 300 deaths that were manipulated to inherit these fortunes.