This book is an eye-opening story that is part true crime, part history and part investigation into one of the worst parts of American history, a story that has seemingly been mostly forgotten, due to the ethnicity of the victims and how it violates American national myths. It is an awful story, but it is really worth reading if you have an interest in justice issues, especially those around racial issues and especially those involving aboriginals.
The first part two parts of this book are a really well told true crime investigation. Grann handles the story with real skill as the person seemingly ultimately responsible for the Osage “Reign of Terror” is not someone you’d expect. The hints are there but I sure didn’t see them, and that’s to Grann’s great credit; he tells a compelling true crime yarn as if it was a whodunit murder mystery. He manages to convey the same level of mystery he no doubt experienced to you, the reader.
It also functions as a really interesting introduction as to how the FBI turned into what it is today – i.e. how it went from an organization with few powers (they couldn’t even arrest people!) and a reputation for corruption to the incredibly powerful national police force it is today – now the more experienced and knowledgeable police compared to local and state authorities.
And then we get to part 3. Part 3 is the part that is devastating and eye-opening, if part 2 wasn’t bad enough. Part 3 reveals a borderline genocidal conspiracy to kill off the Osage due to their oil rights. A conspiracy that was never fully uncovered and whose members mostly went unpunished. It would be a conspiracy unprecedented in US history if not for the actual genocide of the aboriginals that had been occurring for centuries already. Only this time, there were fewer victims and it was no longer official government policy. It’s the kind of information that really makes you think about how history is told and taught – who learned about this in school? It’s the kind of information that reminds you that national myths are just myths and cannot be trusted. The real story usually involves a lot of forgotten victims.
Just an awful story, but really worth your time.