One of the comments on the dust jacket of this book describes it as “emotionally devastating” and I found that to be an understatement. David Grann’s book covers the 1920’s northeast Oklahoma when the Osage Indians were sitting on one of the richest oil reserves in the world. Just two or three generations prior, the government relocated hundreds of thousands of native Americans to Oklahoma, the infamous Trail of Tears.
The idea was to move the native Americans to an area of the country where it was arid, rocky, hilly and the soil was not conducive to growing crops. No one else wanted it so why not give it to the “Indians”?
It sounded like a good idea to the American government and white people until oil was discovered on this land. Soon the Osages were riding in chauffeured limousines, building huge houses and turning small towns such as Gray Horse and Fairfax into thriving cities.
But wealth like that is going to draw trouble. With the help of corrupt the American and Oklahoma governments, the white people began scheming on how they could get their hands on all that money. Although plots were woven to inherit or control Osage lands, some decided to take a faster route and resorted to murder.
Molly Burkhart’s sister disappeared suddenly. Her body was found several days later, badly decomposed. The cause of death was determined to be a bullet fired into the back of her skull. Despite no exit wound, the bullet was never located.
More Osages were killed in this manner, but others were poisoned. Whether the plan was outright violence or more insidious, the goal was the same. The Osage had little help from law enforcement and virtually from the government. Here is where the emotional devastation comes in, as the extreme injustice is allowed to flourish with impunity. Corruption was everywhere and the Osage powerless to defend themselves, robbed of their wealth.
Grann unravels the most diabolical schemes that involved Molly Burkhart, her sisters, mother and even her children. Grann’s book begins to read like an Agatha Christie novel with twists, turns and surprises that would impress the Queen of Mystery herself.
The bad part is this is no cozy mystery. It is a documented story of greed, racism and murder.