This book review was written by Eugene Kernes
Reads like a novel yet a historical account of the Osage murders. An elaborate façade which made it very difficult for the authorities to find the suspects responsible, which each chapter elucidating the situation more. Each piece of the murder mystery puzzle is elucidated with each chapter, but Grann does not divulge the parties responsible for the murders until the mystery puzzle pieces fit together. Grann wrote about the situation of the Osage from many different perspectives which include the Osage communities, the culprits, and the authorities.
Native American tribes have been forced to relocate themselves multiple times, through the ultimatum of a peaceful negotiation in which the choices were to move or go to war. The Osage relocated to a land which would have trouble in agriculture, but they accepted it as it would have prevented the non-Native Americans from going there. They bought the land specifically because it was not coveted by others, for their society to be left alone. As it turns out, the land they bought was on top of massive natural resource reserves. The Osage claimed rights to the natural resources with which they obtained rents for their extractions, making the Osage very wealthy. Forced to relocate to a desolate area turned out to have coveted resources.
Law and race were intertwined in determining the outcome of the Osage. The money from leases for rights to drill were divided by the community and the right to the income was hereditary, could not be sold or bought. A full-blooded Osage was assigned a guardian. A guardian kept the money, supposedly safe, and distributing it to their wards, the Osage with the headright to the income, on a need bases. The Osage were not allowed to be responsible for their own money, considering them no more than mere children in that regard. With the trials, the jury had a hard time to come to a decision as they did not recognize the killing of an Osage worse than killing of a wild animal. The racial divisions were prevalent, but especially when dealing with legislature.
When the questionable deaths arose, the Osage themselves when to private eye detectives, due to a lack of state and national law enforcement. Many different ways of catching criminals were briefly discussed, including the new technological changes in the field. The case of the Osage murders was technically the first case that the Federal Bureau of Investigations took on, but that department went by a different name before. The difference that the FBI made was to systematized variety of methods from data collections and filing to the procedure of what techniques were acceptable to catch the criminals and interrogate them.
Mostly following the historic time-line, in which the changing views are the most salient. The way the façade breaks within the story is extremely immersive, making the reader understand the difficulty of changing views and the biases that we have towards those we trust. This book also speaks to the uncertainty of history, rather than being deterministic, it has many missing pieces. In the case of the Osage, many of the murders had gone by without any attempt to find the perpetrators.
Pages to read: 287
Ratings out of 5: