Librarian Reads: Book Reviews and Recommendations

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Ever wonder what your SMRLD librarians are reading? Well now you can follow along here with some of their recommendations.

November 2020

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.  In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation.  And why was that?  Because they retained the mineral rights to the lands in Oklahoma to which they had been relocated – they owned the “underground reservation” that was rich with oil during the boom times.

While to some this might seem like a really fortunate life, for the Osage it was cursed with murder, misfortune, and disaster.  And, for the United States, it was the birth of the FBI.  The “Reign of Terror,” as this time in Osage history is known, was only finally dealt with by an undercover team leading the Bureau of Investigation’s first substantial case.

The story illuminates what was possibly one of the biggest serial murder conspiracies in US history and one of the most forgotten.  From the 1910s through the 1930s hundreds of the Osage were murdered for their “headrights” – the legal grant of lands, or in this case the underground mineral rights.  At that time there were about 2,000 Osage who were registered on the tribal roll; each one of them received a headright, or their individual share in the mineral trust.  Headrights could not be sold, they could only be inherited, which made the Osage quite desirable spouses for unscrupulous persons.

At the zenith of the oil boom in Oklahoma, in the 1920s, the Osage had accumulated millions and millions of dollars, equivalent to about $400 million today.  BUT the Osage control of and access to their money was limited by restrictions imposed by the US government.  Many of the Osage were assigned guardians to oversee and supervise how the Osage spent their money.  Becoming an Osage guardian was also a desirable position that was maintained by a handful of untrustworthy people.

This is a tale of families who were being methodically whittled down in order to funnel wealth for easier access by shameless reprobates.  Reading like a novel, this book is full of intrigue, mystery, sleuthing, and human interest.  Racism against Native Americans is startling and unfortunate.  Using primary sources including both published and unpublished letters, diaries, family papers, and records from the FBI and other sources, the author paints a vivid picture.  I recommend this title to those who enjoy history, mystery, thrillers, memoirs, and just plain interesting stories.

Tina Hubert, Executive Director Six Mile Regional Library District

Killers of the Flower Moon is available from the Six Mile Regional Library District in hardback, audiobook, as an e-book and an e-audiobook.  For more information, visit elibrary.smrld.org or call 618-452-6238 ext. 730.

October 2020

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

As a teen I was enthralled with horror stories.  I grew up reading HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and more.  I left the horror story stage behind and haven’t really read the genre for years.  Well, it seems this is a good year to revisit it.  I recently spent a Saturday reading this tale from beginning to end – everything else was put on hold.

Mexican Gothic is full of mystery and intrigue surrounded by the supernatural and unknown – a classic gothic novel.  It’s more psychological horror than gore.  In 1950s Mexico, Noemi Taboada is a glamorous debutante more interested in her own independence than being settled.  After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging someone to save her, Noemi travels to rescue her cousin Catalina, with the promise from her father that she can attend the university of her choice if she will only do this one thing.

Arriving at the husband’s remote old family mansion in the mountains, Noemi has a true mystery to unravel.  Catalina is kept secreted in her bedroom and Noemi roams the mansion and grounds trying to deduce what’s really going on.  Noemi is a tough cookie; she’s not afraid of her cousin’s new husband who is both intimidating and alluring or the husband’s forbidding father or sister.  She uses the husband’s young nephew to escape to the nearby town to send letters back to her family and to seek advice from both the town doctor and local wise woman.  The family seemingly has a strange hold over the town and the mountain full of some dark ancient knowledge.

With plenty of menace, this tale evokes the atmosphere of the horror movies from the 1930s and 40s, where violin music would play in the background of the foggy craggy scenery.  The story starts a little slow, but builds to a surprising crescendo.  I thought I had it all figured out only to discover a truly unexpected ending.  I couldn’t put it down.

Tina Hubert, Executive Director Six Mile Regional Library District

Mexican Gothic is available from the Six Mile Regional Library District in hardback, as an e-book and an e-audiobook.  For more information, visit elibrary.smrld.org or call 618-452-6238 ext. 730.

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