The perfect nonfiction is quite a claim – and I’m not sure that I’ve found it, but I (read: Book of the Month Club) sure found a good one. I wonder if there really is a perfect nonfiction out there..
I love a good nonfiction, but I always find that they are so hit or miss. Some of my favorites recently are Deadwake by Erik Larson, Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, The Profiteers by Sally Denton, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and now I’m adding Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann.
As I think about what these books have in common, I’ve broken my preferences down to four main ingredients.
- Wow factor. It has to feel like I’m really learning something new about the world – particularly the US
- Good character development
- A narrative story line
- A concise ending
Killers of the Flower Moon had the first three, but in my opinion, struggled with the ending – more on that later.
But before we go any further, a synopsis from Goodreads:
“In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.
In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood.”
I read it quickly over the course of the last week, when I probably should’ve been studying, and finished it on the plane down to Florida. It was such an amazing story, and my only qualm with it was that the ending spent way too much timing tying up loose ends!
“History is a merciless judge. It lays bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps and exposes our most intimate secrets, wielding the power of hindsight like an arrogant detective who seems to know the end of the mystery from the outset. “
Grann’s writing reads like a well balanced mix of prose and investigative journalism. The story begins with Mollie Burkhart, an Osage Indian with a large family and a white husband. At the outset, Mollie’s sister, Anna, is missing and it is evident that she won’t be coming home alive.
As soon as you get comfortable with Mollie’s story, Grann shifts to another angle in the story – Tom White, the Bureau of Investigation (Later named the Federal Bureau of Investigation) agent put in place to figure out what was going on in Osage County.
This part was by and large my favorite. The story unraveled so smoothly that I felt like I was spotting things that didn’t seem right, right before the next revelation was unveiled.
It was a very satisfying way to work through the story and that’s largely in part to Grann’s writing style.
The final section mostly outlined Grann’s own investigative work, so maybe he wanted to make sure he included those results. Maybe (I’m 100% speculating) he wanted to tie up all loose ends, so as to be the authoritative book of the Osage Indian Reign of Terror. Either way, I felt that the story was over before the final section, and I kind of skimmed the end.
I don’t want to spoil any more so I’ll just tell you to pick up a copy of Killers of the Flower Moon! As my next move, I’m heading to theatres to see The Lost City of Z, based on another book written by David Grann. I’ll let you know what I think!