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MURDER AT THE MISSION

A FRONTIER KILLING, ITS LEGACY OF LIES, AND THE TAKING OF THE AMERICAN WEST

A boon for those who like their history unadorned by obfuscation and legend.

Revisionist account of the once-well-known 1847 Whitman Massacre, an event that helped catalyze the American annexation of Oregon and Washington.

Harden focuses on the mission founded by Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, a place that became a locus for intrigue and murder. The two Presbyterian missionaries had come with pious intentions but a tendency not to listen to anyone, and they settled not among the more receptive Nez Perce but instead among the Cayuse people. “For eleven years,” writes the author, “albeit with mounting disappointment and bitterness, the Indians allowed the Whitmans to preach, teach, farm, and build on their land.” But on Nov. 29, 1847, a party of Cayuse massacred the Whitmans and 11 other White male settlers. The targets were deliberately chosen; other Whites were left alone. Harden diligently reconstructs the events over the years leading up to the killing, showing how Whitman opened Cayuse territory to White settlers streaming overland across the Oregon Trail without asking the Cayuse for permission to do so. The events were immortalized by another missionary, Henry Spalding, whom church authorities privately suspected of being a psychopath. Whitman had ridden back all the way to Boston to defend himself from church inquiries and secure further support for his growing mission, stopping in Washington on the way. Spalding, whose career was faltering, inflated the importance of Whitman’s trip, imagining that this sojourn in the nation’s capital was the “tale of a pious patriot riding east to save Oregon from the perfidious British.” Harden’s vivid reconstruction illustrates the process of Western mythmaking, beloved of Americans when it paints them in a heroic light; and of cultural collision, with the Whitmans almost willfully ignoring the Cayuse worldview. There’s a strong strand of anti-Catholicism, Know-Nothingism, and racism throughout, too, which lends Harden’s welcome study an unfortunate timeliness.

A boon for those who like their history unadorned by obfuscation and legend.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-56166-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


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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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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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