The Feather Thief

The Feather Thief

Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Book - 2018
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"On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins--some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them--and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature."--Page 2 of cover.
Publisher: New York : Viking, [2018]
Copyright Date: 2018
ISBN: 9781101981610
110198161X
9780525559092
0525559094
Branch Call Number: 364.162859 JOHNSON
Characteristics: 308 pages ; 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Never have I ever stolen birds from a museum.

Who knew dead birds stored in a museum for study would be worth stealing? Yes—and then sold to people who make money selling their personally tied flies for fishing. This is an exciting story of a little known world where beautiful feathers are valuable, stolen or not. ArapahoePamelaH

Comment
ArapahoeJillA Jul 18, 2018

The tale of a man who steals birds from a museum in order to sell them to salmon fly tyers. Yes, it's a true story and a fascinating one at that! I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will now go look for Kirk's first book to read while I eagerly await his next book.

Comment
ArapahoePamelaH Jul 17, 2018

Who knew dead birds stored in a museum for study would be worth stealing? Yes - and then sold to people who make money selling their personally tied flies for fishing. This is an exciting story of a little known world where beautiful feathers are valuable, stolen or not.


From the critics


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w
Warbler3
Feb 15, 2020

Good writing, but I couldn't stand reading about all those dead birds. :-(

FPL_AdamL Jan 17, 2020

This is an amazing narrative of science, beauty, and human emotions wrapped up as a light-heart and riveting heist story.

b
bluefoot43
Oct 21, 2019

Unlike most true crime, this is a book I really enjoyed! (I can't be entertained by books with horrible crimes that actually happened to someone, but this is about a heist of bird specimens.) From obsessive fly-tiers to the impact of fashion on bird extinction - this book dealt with things I'd never had occasion to even think about, and it did it while keeping me engaged and entertained!

m
MaryJoSchifsky
Sep 02, 2019

Aug 2019 Obsession, beginning w the naturalists risking life and limb to obtain the specimens in the MUS Natl History to the young thief, moving to the fly-tying purchasers of irreplaceable feathers to the author, who somehow thought he should make it is goal to find the remaining specimens after the their was caught. Interesting and wierd.

h
Heatherlee73
Aug 05, 2019

This is an amazing true crime book about the feather thief, obsession, collective hoarding, entitlement of the human race, and environmental preservation to list some of the themes. The writing is excellent and the story reads like a novel. The natural history of the colorful birds, their habitats, as well as their discovery and preservation was quite interesting. The exploitation for fashion and for fly-fishing is disheartening. Greed and entitlement persist.

I did learn more about fly-tying and fly tiers than I wished to know and found myself “power reading” through some descriptions.

n
nalahblueberry5
May 10, 2019

Rather odd story but it sucked me in. I did enjoy the second half maybe a bit better than the first. I was behind the author in his quest to at least try to find the missing birds. Good job. He is a good writer and I totally see why he wanted to write this book. It's odd and certainly not run of the mill. Shame on everyone involved except the author.

OPL_ErinD May 05, 2019

For fans who love intrigue, but also anyone who enjoys an inside look at a researchers path to storytelling.

l
laura_nicoara
Feb 20, 2019

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/654/the-feather-heist

i
INVS
Dec 12, 2018

I tend to agree with 'juniperwind' review. I skipped ahead frequently & didn't lose anything. What is remarkable is getting into the BHM for this theft - it is a wonderous section of the museum, one day cannot possibly cover the visit.

l
lnbray13
Oct 22, 2018

A gripping and fast-paced tale of true crime that takes the reader from the dark side of fly fishing and the feather black market to the site of a heist of rare bird skins from the Natural History Museum at Tring in 2009.

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