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THE WAGER

A TALE OF SHIPWRECK, MUTINY AND MURDER

A brisk, absorbing history and a no-brainer for fans of the author’s suspenseful historical thrillers.

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The author of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Lost City of Z returns with a rousing story of a maritime scandal.

In 1741, the British vessel the Wager, pressed into service during England’s war with Spain, was shipwrecked in a storm off the coast of Patagonia while chasing a silver-laden Spanish galleon. Though initially part of a fleet, by the time of the shipwreck, the Wager stood alone, and many of its 250 crew members already had succumbed to injury, illness, starvation, or drowning. More than half survived the wreckage only to find themselves stranded on a desolate island. Drawing on a trove of firsthand accounts—logbooks, correspondence, diaries, court-martial testimony, and Admiralty and government records—Grann mounts a chilling, vibrant narrative of a grim maritime tragedy and its dramatic aftermath. Central to his populous cast of seamen are David Cheap, who, through a twist of fate, became captain of the Wager; Commodore George Anson, who had made Cheap his protégé; formidable gunner John Bulkeley; and midshipman John Byron, grandfather of the poet. Life onboard an 18th-century ship was perilous, as Grann amply shows. Threats included wild weather, enemy fire, scurvy and typhus, insurrection, and even mutiny. On the island, Cheap struggled to maintain authority as factions developed and violence erupted, until a group of survivors left—without Cheap—in rude makeshift boats. Of that group, 29 castaways later washed up on the coast of Brazil, where they spent more than two years in Spanish captivity; and three castaways, including Cheap, landed on the shores of Chile, where they, too, were held for years by the Spanish. Each group of survivors eventually returned to England, where they offered vastly different versions of what had occurred; most disturbingly, each accused the other of mutiny, a crime punishable by hanging. Recounting the tumultuous events in tense detail, Grann sets the Wager episode in the context of European imperialism as much as the wrath of the sea.

A brisk, absorbing history and a no-brainer for fans of the author’s suspenseful historical thrillers.

Pub Date: April 18, 2023

ISBN: 9780385534260

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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UNDER THE BRIDGE

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Godfrey reconstructs a horrific murder with a vividness found in the finest fiction, without ever sacrificing journalistic integrity.

The novel The Torn Skirt (2002) showed how well the author could capture the roiling inner life of a teenager. She brings that sensibility to bear in this account of the 1997 murder of a 14-year-old girl in British Columbia, a crime for which seven teenage girls and one boy were charged. While there’s no more over-tilled literary soil than that of the shocking murder in a small town, Godfrey manages to portray working-class View Royal in a fresh manner. The victim, Reena Virk, was a problematic kid. Rebelling against her Indian parents’ strict religiosity, she desperately mimicked the wannabe gangsta mannerisms of her female schoolmates, who repaid her idolization by ignoring her. The circumstances leading up to the murder seem completely trivial: a stolen address book, a crush on the wrong guy. But popular girls like Josephine and Kelly had created a vast, imaginary world (mostly stolen from mafia movies and hip-hop) in which they were wildly desired and feared. In this overheated milieu, reality was only a distant memory, and everything was allowed. The murder and cover-up are chilling. Godfrey parcels out details piecemeal in the words of the teens who took part or simply watched. None of them seemed to quite comprehend what was going on, why it happened or even—in a few cases—what the big deal was. The tone veers close to melodrama, but in this context it works, since the author is telling the story from the inside out, trying to approximate the relentlessly self-dramatizing world these kids inhabited. Given most readers’ preference for easily explained and neatly concluded crime narratives, Godfrey’s resolute refusal to impose false order on the chaos of a murder spawned by rumors and lies is commendable.

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-1091-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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