The Feather Thief
A rollicking true-crime adventure and a thought-provoking exploration of the human drive to possess natural beauty for readers of The Stranger in the Woods, The Lost City of Z, and The Orchid Thief.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.

The Feather Thief Details

TitleThe Feather Thief
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 24th, 2018
PublisherViking
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Crime, True Crime, Science, History, Mystery, Animals, Environment, Nature, Historical, Birds

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The Feather Thief Review

  • KC
    January 1, 1970
    This is the truly amazing story of how a twenty year old American flute prodigy pulled off an unbelievable museum heist of rare and exotic bird skins and feathers. Edwin Risk loved music but also was quite enthralled in the world of fly fish tying. He spent hours perfecting his craft and while still a young teenager, became a master tier within the competitive and elusive world. In 2009 while studying at London's Royal Academy of Music, Edwin began to put forth a plan to steal rare bird specimen This is the truly amazing story of how a twenty year old American flute prodigy pulled off an unbelievable museum heist of rare and exotic bird skins and feathers. Edwin Risk loved music but also was quite enthralled in the world of fly fish tying. He spent hours perfecting his craft and while still a young teenager, became a master tier within the competitive and elusive world. In 2009 while studying at London's Royal Academy of Music, Edwin began to put forth a plan to steal rare bird specimens from the British Museum of Natural History in hopes to sell to wealthy tiers so he may be able to purchase himself a new flute. Kirk Wallace Johnson painstakingly unfolded this crime which was both peculiar and scandalous. This telling explored Edwin's consuming passion and fascination. His greed and lust forced him to ignore the devastating consequences of his actions resulting in a major blow to the nature community. An outstanding page-turner!
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  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    A quick look at the details of the true crime story that drives this narrative and I was hooked. A 19-year old flute-playing savant who steals an invaluable collection of rare bird skins by breaking into a British museum, all so he can tie Victorian salmon flies? BRING IT ON!!! I'm happy to relate that the story is just as compelling as it sounds, inspiring a marathon reading session that kept me staying up late into the night. What I didn't expect was that the scope of the book is much more exp A quick look at the details of the true crime story that drives this narrative and I was hooked. A 19-year old flute-playing savant who steals an invaluable collection of rare bird skins by breaking into a British museum, all so he can tie Victorian salmon flies? BRING IT ON!!! I'm happy to relate that the story is just as compelling as it sounds, inspiring a marathon reading session that kept me staying up late into the night. What I didn't expect was that the scope of the book is much more expansive than the story of Edwin Rist's caper. He's central, of course, but through the telling of his heist, we follow Kirk Johnson's own pursuit of the missing feathers. In his attempt to understand Rist's theft we're taken on a journey that touches on harrowing expeditions to collect tropical bird specimens in the mid-1800's, the insane use of feathers in women's fashion in the Victorian Era, the beginning of the modern conservation movement, the shadowy (and almost comically nerdy) world of salmon fly tiers, and the ongoing scientific uses of collections such as the one that Rist pilfered. It's part adventure story, part natural history lesson, part whodunnit, and part philosophical musing on the relationship between beauty and obsession. There are twists to the story, and I don't want to include spoilers, but it has left me thinking about the nature of possession, and the ways in which the drive to collect (feathers, birds, art?) can benefit the public good while also opening the door for cruelty and selfishness. I highly recommend it.
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  • JackiexA1
    January 1, 1970
    March Book ReviewA quick look at the details of the true crime story that drives this narrative and I was hooked. A 19-year old flute-playing savant who steals an invaluable collection of rare bird skins by breaking into a British museum, all so he can tie Victorian salmon flies? BRING IT ON!!! I'm happy to relate that the story is just as compelling as it sounds, inspiring a marathon reading session that kept me staying up late into the night. What I didn't expect was that the scope of the book March Book ReviewA quick look at the details of the true crime story that drives this narrative and I was hooked. A 19-year old flute-playing savant who steals an invaluable collection of rare bird skins by breaking into a British museum, all so he can tie Victorian salmon flies? BRING IT ON!!! I'm happy to relate that the story is just as compelling as it sounds, inspiring a marathon reading session that kept me staying up late into the night. What I didn't expect was that the scope of the book is much more expansive than the story of Edwin Rist's caper. He's central, of course, but through the telling of his heist, we follow Kirk Johnson's own pursuit of the missing feathers. In his attempt to understand Rist's theft we're taken on a journey that touches on harrowing expeditions to collect tropical bird specimens in the mid-1800's, the insane use of feathers in women's fashion in the Victorian Era, the beginning of the modern conservation movement, the shadowy (and almost comically nerdy) world of salmon fly tiers, and the ongoing scientific uses of collections such as the one that Rist pilfered. It's part adventure story, part natural history lesson, part whodunit, and part philosophical musing on the relationship between beauty and obsession. There are twists to the story, and I don't want to include spoilers, but it has left me thinking about the nature of possession, and the ways in which the drive to collect (feathers, birds, art?) can benefit the public good while also opening the door for cruelty and selfishness. I highly recommend it. Also it's just like 39 clues, because there were mysteries and try to find crimes and all that stuff. This book is really amazing
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  • Kristen Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    This is such a weird but fantastic book. I can’t tell you how many times I thought, i mean, we’re talking about feathers, right? Feathers? Aren’t there bigger issues going on in the world right now? But it sucks you in & somehow you find yourself thinking, what happened to those feathers? Where did they go? What did Edwin do with them? So crazy how it twists your mind into actually caring about some feathers and what happened to them. :)
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  • Nichole
    January 1, 1970
    What a bizarre story but so fascinating.
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