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, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist grabbed hundreds of bird skins - some collected 150 years earlier - and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? This is the gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice. Print run 50,000.
Publisher: New York : Viking, [2018]
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9781101981610
Branch Call Number: 364.16285 N2193J 2018
Characteristics: x, 308 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

2019 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Fact Crime

This fascinating account of a bizarre heist of rare bird skins from the British Natural History Museum in 2009 leads readers into an unexpected place – the little-known world of Victorian-era fly-tying enthusiasts.

From the critics

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Oct 07, 2020

This non-fiction book has a strong premise, as well as, a strong beginning. But what started off as a great book, slowly fizzled out to a decent true tale of an obsessed individual and the small community within the fly fishing community that values the decorative salmon flies.

ArapahoeKirsten Sep 09, 2020

A non-violent true crime novel - about a heist to steal birds from a natural history museum to use their feathers for fly fishing. Super engaging, mind-opening, and an overall fun read!

Jul 05, 2020

I loved this book. I couldn't put it down, which was a total shock because it's literally a book about feathers and a dude who stole them. :) I was absolutely riveted from page one, and cannot recommend this book highly enough!

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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