Book Recommend – Bloodland: A Family Story of Oil, Greed and Murder on the Osage Reservation

This was the first book I read about the Osage conspiracy, and it’s a very interesting one. It’s part personal and family memoir, part investigative journalism, and part history.

The author decides to look into the mysterious suicide of his Osage grandmother, which happened in the 1920’s when his mother was just a toddler. He goes into depth about how this impacted his mother and every aspect of her life growing up, as well as how it was revealed to him. Because of the time, place and culture his mother was raised in (Oklahoma), her Osage heritage was treated as a shameful secret.

I found it to be a really interesting look at their family dynamics, and how he was able to piece together information about the grandmother he and his mother never knew. He also gets far enough that he is able to basically confirm that his grandmother was killed for her share in the Osage oil money, most likely by someone working for her white step-father.

The evidence and clues are haunting – the Catholic Church allowed her to be buried in the family mausoleum, a receipt that confirms she was pregnant again, a record of her estate shows an unusual payoff to the maid who was in the house at the time, and an impossibly fast account published in the newspaper.

This book is dark. The author seriously considers the possibility that his grandfather, that he did know and have a relationship with, was the murderer. The more personal bits of the book include that he’s been married 4 or 5 times, that his wife is pregnant with their first child, and that he’s descending into alcoholism while in Oklahoma investigating the book.

I will say that at times I had difficulty following the threads of the investigation, just from the sheer number of names and complicated family relationships. It’s the best first person account of modern fall-out I’ve read.

I would recommend it if you’re interested in cold case work and some very interesting, very personal history. There is some coverage given about the FBI and how the cases were treated at the time. There’s also some exploration of his Osage heritage that is new to him. I found that part less interesting. I have a lot of family in Oklahoma and the things he found new are cultural there. In a random aside, he does basically accuse Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pa of murder (I know!).

If you’re looking for an exhaustive history of the events larger than just his particular family, or in-depth coverage of the cases that were eventually prosecuted and how it all fit together, I don’t think this is quite the one.

Unfortunately, I seem to have left this book behind somewhere in a move, so no picture other than the Amazon one.

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