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

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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.

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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: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,356,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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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18 of 21 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frederick J. Spector on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Winged Obsession is as much about the author,Jessica Spearts' dedication to our planet and it's diverse
species as it is a expose of the horrendous and Illicit trapping and selling of endangered and rare insect
species by Yoshi Kojima, the most notorious dealer of insect rarities.

While Kojima is the focus of this amazing and eye-opening real life story, the game of "Chess" between U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Agent Ed Newcomer and Kojima as he attempts to capture him, is intriguing .

Jessica Speart has written ten books about Rachael Porter, a fictional U.S. Agent, dedicated to stopping
illegal animal trading .Jessicas' research took her throughout the United States, and she spent many hours with these Overworked and dedicated people.

Winged Obsession is the culmination of her years of ,in the field research, and makes the point that
in this strange world of the Obsessed,truth Is stranger than fiction.

This is a must read for anyone who cares about the life on the Earth, no matter how small.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JustMelissa VINE VOICE on May 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a fan of Jessica Speart's Fish and Wildlife mystery series and a reader of interesting narrative nonfiction, I was really looking forward to reading this book. Content-wise, Winged Obsession didn't disappoint. Learning about the inner-workings of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, especially from the perspective of an undercover agent was great. Understanding the dark side of obsessive butterfly and beetle collecting was fascinating, Ed Newcomer, the agent featured in the books became almost as obsessed with capturing famed butterfly smuggler Yoshi Kajima as Yoshi was with collecting rare and endangered butterflies.

However, technically I never "clicked" with this book. My biggest complaint is the author's choice to tell the story from the third person omniscient perspective. Though she seems to have extensively interviewed the agent and various other involved parties while investigating the story, it's clear she never (directly or indirectly) captured Yoshi's version of events. However, she still regularly inserts his thoughts, feelings, and fears into the text. Having not interviewed him, it's impossible for her to accurately report encounters from Yoshi's point of view. Though this is a common writing approach when writing fiction, nonfiction doesn't allow the author take such liberties. I also struggled with some of the tense changes and the overall flow of the book. In particular, the middle section recounting the endless and repetitive Skype conversations between Agent Newcomer and Yoshi really dragged. In general, I think a firm-handed editor could have fixed the majority of these problems.

Bottom line, while reading this book I kept thinking that this is exactly the kind of book I, as an avid reader and researcher but not writer, could have written: factually correct, technically flawed. I will stick to Speart's fiction in the future.
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