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Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler Hardcover – April 5, 2011

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Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler + The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061772437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061772436
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A true thriller about an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent hunting for the ‘human vacuum cleaner’ of the insect world.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Reads like a suspense thriller.” (Oklahoma City Oklahoman)

Winged Obsession offers a fascinating glimpse into the illegal market in exotic and endangered butterflies....By the end of Winged Obsession, I was rooting for creatures I didn’t know existed before I read the book. (Miami Herald)

Butterfly smugglers? Who knew? Journalist Jessica Speart chases down the butterfly world’s most elusive criminal, the notorious Yoshi Kojima, in her fantastic new book. It’s a journey with the twists and turns of a taut thriller — like The Orchid Thief, only with wings. (Daily Candy)

Meet the Hannibal Lecter of the conservation world... this expose reads like a thriller and proves once again that truth is stranger than fiction. (Lee Child, New York Times Bestselling author)

Winged Obsession is an unputdownable thriller.... I loved this book! (Lisa Scottoline, New York Times Bestselling author)

From the Back Cover

winged obsession

The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler

One of the world's most beautiful endangered species, butterflies are as lucrative as gorillas, pandas, and rhinos on the black market.

And in this cutthroat $200 million business, no one made more money than—or posed as great an ecological danger as—Yoshi Kojima, the kingpin of butterfly smugglers.

Determined to capture Kojima, rookie U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent Ed Newcomer became close to the smuggler, posing as a young apprentice eager to learn the smuggling trade. But twice the agent's inexperience allowed this criminal, with a nearly supernatural sense of survival and an overwhelming sense of paranoia, to get away.

Just when it seemed Kojima was out of reach, Newcomer was given one last chance to reel him in. Somewhere in the hunt, Kojima had become obsessed with the agent. This obsession, along with his continued mania for butterflies, could finally spell the downfall of the untouchable smuggler.

But the story doesn't end there. Working under-cover to research this book, Jessica Speart befriended Kojima as well. Like Newcomer, she was going to betray Kojima. What she didn't know was that this cagey smuggler was planning to turn the tables and use her as a patsy for continuing his illegal butterfly trade.

More About the Author

I began as an investigative journalist with a focus on wildlife law enforcement, endangered species issues, and the environment. I created my sleuth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent Rachel Porter, after years of investigating wildlife and drug trafficking crimes for publications such as The New York Sunday Times Magazine, National Wildlife, Travel & Leisure, Mother Jones, Audubon, Wildllife Conservation, Animals, and E Magazine.

Then something strange happened. I discovered that truth really IS stranger than fiction. I learned about a 3 year undercover operation that resulted in the arrest of the world's most notorious butterfly smuggler. The story was so dark and twisted that I was fascinated by it. But I didn't stop there. I decided I had to meet the smuggler, himself. That's when my book, WINGED OBSESSION, took on a totally unexpected element.

Prior to writing, I worked as an actress on everything from off-Broadway to commercials, industrials, and soap operas.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 51 customer reviews
Despite that, it felt nearly endless, due to the repetition of the material mentioned in point one.
His feelings, his thoughts, his likes and dislikes are part of the story and this makes the book a very entertaining read.
A. Tegtmeier
The book recounts the investigation as if the Fish and Wildlife investigator were telling his own story.
Lynne E.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By L. K. Messner on March 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an incredibly compelling work of narrative nonfiction about the world's most notorious smuggler of endangered butterflies and the work of the undercover U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent who tracked him down and won his trust. The word "obsession" gets front-cover treatment, and for good reason. Not only is the smuggler, Yoshi Kojiyama, obsessed with butterflies and beetles (the descriptions of his apartments teeming with them are downright itch-inducing); he also grows more and more obsessed with the young man who befriends him at a butterfly show wanting to learn the trade, not realizing that his new apprentice is an undercover agent. And that Fish & Wildlife agent, Ted Newcomer, slips deeper and deeper into obsession himself - risking everything to go after the older Japanese man who seems untouchable in the world of butterfly smuggling.

I picked this book up expecting to enjoy it as a naturalist and ecologist, and I did -- the descriptions of the butterflies are lovely and fascinating, and the revelations about the underground trade in illicit insects was eye-opening. But on top of that, WINGED OBSESSION is really a psychological thriller, and I found myself driving around running errands, thinking about that book on the table by the sofa. Was Ted Newcomer EVER going to catch this guy?? And if so, at what cost? I'm usually more of a novel reader, but this is one fascinating page-turner of a book -- one that gives any fictional psychological thriller I've read a serious run for its money.

Note for teachers & parents: The cover of this one is lovely, and the butterfly smuggling issue would appeal to middle school kids for sure, but this is really a book for adults and NOT one to share in the classroom, due to some pretty explicit descriptions of Kojiyama's interests outside of butterflies and his obsession with Newcomer himself. I'd even hesitate to share it with high school readers - definitely read it first and then decide.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Hundley VINE VOICE on April 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reviewed in Proof; photos and other appendices not available.

This is a tricky one to review.

One the one hand, much of the prose is leaden, cliche-ridden in places, and I would not have been surprised if any number of chapters had begun, "It was a dark and stormy night." Speart is listed on the cover as a journalist specializing in wildlife enforcement issues, which she may well be, but more telling - to a point - is that she is listed as the author of 10 mystery novels, with this listed as her first non-fiction book-length work. I have not read any of her novels, nor did I look her up to see if any other non-fiction books have been published at another house.

And indeed this reads like a mystery novel, for good and ill. It is fast-paced, includes a great deal of dialog (including an alarming amount of interior dialog, which I found off-putting for a purported work of non-fiction) and is broken up into short, quick-read chapters. To her credit, I found myself turning pages and reading on despite my misgivings about the often sodden prose and questionable veracity of the principals' internal thoughts and motivations. Even with these, only the smuggler Kojima ever really comes alive as a "character."

Beyond that, though, this story and subject were handled much more deftly in last year's The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists by Peter Laufer. Laufer's book had a much wider scope and the Kojima case was only one part of the whole, but the general themes are the same and Laufer's is simply better written.

That said - I did read this to the finish and I did enjoy it, getting caught up in the pace and the inherent interest of the story. Recommended with reservations.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By *Caligirl_08* VINE VOICE on April 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved this book! Unfortunately I had it designated as my "subway reading" book and could only read it for 30-minutes at a time while on the train, but oh! it made the ride so much more bearable! the 30 minute ride felt like 5 minutes and i was sitting there going 'should i just ride the train all the way to the end and come back? i don't wanna stop reading!'

I know some reviewers objected to the foul language used in the book but i think with a character like kojima a 'perverted nerd who likes playing with bugs' you need to not worry about the language, it's there to create atmosphere and report the way things actually happened. if it was a novel, that's one thing but this is supposed to be a true life story so i dont think being offended by words is an appropriate reaction.

the ONLY complaint i have is (and i have this complaint with many books, it's a pet peeve of mine) i got to read about so many beautiful and exotic sounding butterflies and beetles and things but unfortunately THERE WERE NO PICTURES! this book really could have benefited from some colored inserts!!! however, i liked to book so much, i can't bear to not give it 5 stars. the thing is, if i'm at home, i can go to my laptop and look the pictures up, but not on the subway (i guess i could nudge the dude with the ipad next to me and ask him to google "golden scarab beetle" but... uh... no.)

i definitely recommend this to anyone who loves stories about undercover cops, creepy over-the-top characters and beautiful exotic creatures. people who are really into collecting things (like it's an obsession) will really understand this book on another level.
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