The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

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Kirk Wallace Johnson’s book of nonviolent true crime offers a fascinating look at obsession and greed through the lens of an unusual heist. On June 23, 2009, world-renowned fly tyer Edwin Rist broke into the British Natural History Museum in Tring, making off with a suitcase full of 299 dead exotic birds. As a young man, Rist fell in love with fly tying, the art of binding materials such as furs and feathers to a hook and thread for the purpose of catching fish. The most prized feathers for fly tying come from colorful rare birds that are protected by CITES and, therefore, are difficult and expensive to obtain. As an American flutist studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Rist learns of the nearby museum’s vast bird collection from one of his mentors and decides to risk it all for his nagging obsession for fly tying.

Johnson does a fantastic job at outlining the history of Alfred Russel Wallace’s ornithological discoveries, 1800s feather fashion, the gradual movement toward protecting endangered species, and the continued feather obsession in the fly-tying community. The last half of the book is written with more personal flare as Johnson details his own search for the 106 missing skins. This stranger-than-fiction story is absolutely unputdownable.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Viking
Publish Date 2018-Apr-24
ISBN 9781101981610 Buy this Book
Issue September 2018
Category Mystery, Crime, Thriller


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