David Grann: Killers of the Flower Moon (2017, Vintage) 4 stars

A Dark Darker than Dirt under a Coffin

5 stars

This book carried me along and I had trouble stopping the ride. I also had to text people and talk about it. And it made me uncomfortable. My friend Ellen passed it to me at lunch, which seemed unusual but I get it now. I want to give it to other people and I've told people to read it. Which seems strange since it's been popular and made into a blockbuster movie. But uh, it deserves it.

Highly recommended. (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)

The first section is a murder mystery. The Osage are being killed! We attempt to find who done it! We investigate, we get autopsies and hire detectives and we do our darn best, but it's just so hard and mysteriously every lead dries up and every witness dies and why?! Who can save the Osage? We can't do it and maybe it's impossible for us.

In the second section, J Edgar Hoover wants power and he sends his Federal Investigators out to solve an important crime. It is very difficult and so hard for an outsider, but through perseverance and quick action, Tom White is able to solve the case and find the Devil. The author is a real sonofabitch here because the Devil is staring at us from the beginning of the book. This is literally true and is shown to us. The devil has woven a web through the world of the Osage, has bound them up in silk and is eating them up slowly. And the Devil just grins at us even when justice gets brought.

I am underselling these sections, which would have been a very good book by themselves because of the power of the third section, which is a kick in the stomach.

The third section made me really think about the problem of stories and perspective. When power or a system works for you, it's hard to credit the stories of people who say it isn't working.

I was just going for a long drive and listening to Tim Harford's Cautionary Tales episcode about the Radium Girls and it rings the same bells as the end of this book.

When women say "this hurts" or "I am in pain" or "I am dying" it's credited less than when men say the same thing. In the story of the Radium Girls, the legal system is stacked against giving them justice or disrupting the local economy.

When people tell us the power structure isn't doing what it says, but it keeps working just fine for us, we can believe them or believe our own comfortable eyes. And naturally we credit what we can see. Nobody ever through me up against a wall and made me empty my pockets! That's true for us normally, but ever truer if seeing means we have to become less comfortable, if we have to become allies with strangers who aren't like us or who we don't understand.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, the same play happens. For many people, the legal system is working. They are getting rich. They are gaining power. But for some people, they cry out that cases aren't investigated, they are being poisoned, the people who claim to protect them are hurting them, stealing from them - and the system isn't doing anything it says it does. And the third part turns the knife of the thrilling conclusion of the first 2. It shows that the justice was... a story. The past isn't really past. The comfortable don't want to look.

This book had a LOT of "Oh no" being mumbled as I read it.

The Osage were pushed to a place they were not suited for.

The earth was plundered and the money did what money does.

What was done for the money was horrible.

What was done to cover the crimes was horrible.

When the FBI had what they needed from some horrible crimes, they left.

And when some horrible crimes were known, we condemned the crimes, but did not address their origins or machinations enough.

"Es ist ein Wunder, daß ich all meine Hoffnungen noch nicht aufgegeben habe, denn sie erscheinen absurd und unerfüllbar. Doch ich halte daran fest, trotz allem, weil ich noch stets an das Gute im Menschen glaube."