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The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century Hardcover – April 24, 2018
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“One of the most peculiar and memorable true-crime books ever.... Johnson is an intrepid journalist...[who] has a fine knack for uncovering details that reveal, captivate, and disturb.”
—Christian Science Monitor
“Thrilling... This book is The Orchid Thief for the fly-fishing and birding set.”
—Paris Review, “Staff Picks”
“[A] true-crime caper recounted with relish.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine, “10 Titles to Pick Up Now”
“A riveting read.”
“Richly informative, with handy illustrations, endlessly fascinating and crackingly entertaining, The Feather Thief is the kind of true-crime narrative that gives Erik Larson's much-lauded The Devil in the White City a run for the money.”
“[A] thrilling read.”
“A literary police sketch—part natural history yarn, part detective story, part the stuff of tragedy.”
“This is the type of book I absolutely love – one that takes a seemingly obscure topic and shines a brilliant and bizarre and endlessly fascinating light upon it. The crime itself is riveting, but Kirk Wallace Johnson’s portrayal of the crazy world of feather fanatics makes this an unforgettable read.”
—Michael Finkel, author of The Stranger in the Woods
“Captivating...Everything the author touches in this thoroughly engaging true-crime tale turns to storytelling gold....Johnson's flair for telling an engrossing story is, like the beautiful birds he describes, exquisite....A superb tale about obsession, nature, and man's ‘unrelenting desire to lay claim to its beauty, whatever the cost.’”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“[An] enthralling account of a truly bizarre crime…. Johnson goes deep into the exotic bird and feather trade and concludes that though obsession and greed know no bounds, they certainly make for a fascinating tale. The result is a page-turner that will likely appeal to science, history, and true crime readers.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“A remarkably compelling story of obsession and history.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“You'll never look at a feather the same way again after reading this riveting detective story...[The Feather Thief] brilliantly weaves together Alfred Russel Wallace, the surprisingly shadowy history of fly fishing, conservation and the plumage of the most beautiful birds on earth.”
—The Bookseller (UK)
“A true-crime tale that weaves seemingly unrelated threads—a museum break-in; the development of evolutionary theory; a case of post-Iraq PTSD; endangered birds; and (above all) the murky underworld of fly-tying obsessives—into a spellbinding narrative tapestry.”
—Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu
“A captivating tale of an unlikely thief and his even more unlikely crime, and a meditation on obsession, greed, and the sheer fascination in something as seemingly simple as a feather.”
—Paul Collins, author of The Murder of the Century
“A stirring examination of the devastating effects of human greed on endangered birds, a powerful argument for protecting our environment—and, above all, a captivating crime story.”
—Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees
“This gem of a book, about a heist of archival birds, is marvelous, moving, and transcendent. I can’t stop thinking about it.”
—Dean King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara and The Feud
—Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs
About the Author
Kirk W. Johnson is the author of To Be a Friend Is Fatal and the founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. He is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the American Academy in Berlin, and the USC Annenberg Center.
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This true story is about a young and very gifted fly-tyer who becomes obsessed with acquiring these feathers. He decides to steal rare birds from the Natural History Museum.
The author meticulously covers the theft, the history of the birds stolen, and all the parties involved in the crime and its aftermath. It is a interesting read, surprisingly fun and very well written.
My only criticism is that the book runs out of steam a little at the end. However, this reflects real life, which does not come as neatly packaged as a novel.