If you put one non-fiction book on your reading list, David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI should be it.

Just about 100 years ago, the Osage in Oklahoma began dying mysteriously. When the numbers became too high to ignore, when the corruption of the local government proved that solving the crimes would be a long shot, a young and ambitious J. Edgar Hoover set out to change the face of the FBI and solve these heinous murders.

All the elements of a good crime thriller are here, but this is history, not the imaginings of a novelist.

Grann’s narrative is straightforward, yet compelling.  He treats the victims and their families with respect. At the same time he exposes the duplicitous killers with facts and still with a certain dignity.  The best thing Grann does, though, like any good reporter, is to continue to follow the story.  It all appears to be wrapped up, but there are loose ends to be tied, and Grann seeks to do that.

I was angry many times reading this book- the blatant racism towards the Osage. White people can be terrible, and in some ways we have not come very far in the century since these murders.  It is clear in Grann’s conversation with descendants of the victims that these murders still impact the Osage today.

The glimpse into the early days of J. Edgar Hoover was interesting. We know lots of the legend- the seeds of the person he would become were sown early.

And the FBI agents who did their level best to solve these murders- specifically Tom White.  These are the kind of people we need in law enforcement because he treated people as people first.

I know a few people who said they could not really get into the book, but I enjoyed it.  It exposes a part of history I had never heard of.  It reminds us that we still are not doing right by the Native Americans we so egregiously “displaced” and it shows how people are easily corrupted for a love of money.  The more things change, the more they stay the same indeed.

Put this one on your holiday wish list!