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The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
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Archive - Group Reads > The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson - June 2019

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message 1: by CMT Moderator (new)

CMT Moderator (cmtmoderator) | 47 comments Hello fellow True Crime readers! This discussion is about The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century(add book) by Kirk Wallace Johnson, your discussion leader is Gem.
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The Feather Thief Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson The Feather Thief Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson

Summary

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.


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1480 comments Mod
Talk about bizarre.


Eileen | 8 comments I just finished this, thought it was interesting, and rated it 4 stars.


message 5: by Jamie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jamie Zaccaria | 154 comments Mod
I'm an hour or two into the audiobook and very into it so far. I also have a background in wildlife conservation so this is especially fascinating to me.


Eileen | 8 comments I listened to the audiobook too, Jamie. I bet it is interesting with your conservation background. It was striking for me to be reminded of how far people went in exhausting birds and feathers for such purposes before considering or caring that those resources were not infinite. I like the fact that stories such as this one shine a light on the importance of conservation in an engaging way.


message 7: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gem  | 1270 comments Mod
I'm still in the beginning... I'm hoping there is more about the crime/criminals than just the historical background of feathers (I love historical background but so far it feels like the Orchid Thief.)


message 8: by Jamie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jamie Zaccaria | 154 comments Mod
A nice mix of true crime and natural history. I very much enjoyed the beginning about Wallace and Part 3 told from the author's POV. However, the middle was a bit too long and dry and I sometimes struggled to get through it.


Barbara K | 328 comments I found this compared favorably with The Orchid Thief. The crime is more clearly defined, and I enjoyed the explorations of the motivations of various characters.


Pamela (psquilts2) | 7 comments I enjoyed this book very much. My son and his friends were avidly into fly tying when they were younger. I can see how this could easily become an obsession. Thankfully they were more interested in catching fish with their creations than historical accuracy.


message 11: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gem  | 1270 comments Mod
I'm glad you all enjoyed it. I hope to finish up within the next few days.

Did anyone else find the idea of not holding a high functioning adult with Aspergers accountable for their behavior a bit over the top? It made me think of defendants who say, "Well it wasn't my intention to hurt anyone!" When the fact remains that they did. I, personally, believe you have to judge the intention AND the behavior together. I don't think Edwin's sentence should have been suspended.


Pamela (psquilts2) | 7 comments I agree. Absolutely. I think the author questions the diagnosis when he meets Rist. My review here. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Barbara K | 328 comments Pamela wrote: "I agree. Absolutely. I think the author questions the diagnosis when he meets Rist. My review here. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show..." Nice review!


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1480 comments Mod
Gem, I agree too.

I met my daughter and grandson at the River Banks Zoo in Columbia, SC today, and when we were in the aviary looking at all the endangered species of birds and the feather collection I told her about this book. Just like me, she had never considered that fashion was responsible for the extinction of some birds and she's never taken a second thought about the feathers on her flies when she fishes. My grandson and I are always looking for amazing facts and we decided this meets the criteria in a bad way.


message 15: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gem  | 1270 comments Mod
I finished, I found this book interesting, however, I still can't get over the Aspergers's defense. I wonder if they still use it as a defense in the UK? I'm a huge believer in personal responsibility and I think that's just a legal copout.


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1480 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "I agree. Absolutely. I think the author questions the diagnosis when he meets Rist. My review here. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show..."

Read your review and I agree that this is "a true crime story that would be rejected as too far-fetched if it was fiction"


Beth Buning | 25 comments I was a little confused when I read this book on my Kindle, not realizing until the photographs at the end that this was a true crime story! I did really enjoy this, and think it is incredibly sad that Rist was not really punished for his crime, and that so many specimens were lost forever.


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1480 comments Mod
Beth Buning wrote: "I was a little confused when I read this book on my Kindle, not realizing until the photographs at the end that this was a true crime story! I did really enjoy this, and think it is incredibly sad ..."

Beth, I agree that unless you know going in that it's true, it's so far fetched it's easy to believe it's fiction. Also agree about Rist.


message 19: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gem  | 1270 comments Mod
Beth Buning wrote: "I did really enjoy this, and think it is incredibly sad that Rist was not really punished for his crime, and that so many specimens were lost forever."

Yeah, that really ticked me off. Everyone understands consequences, even children. I hope that is no longer the stance in the UK. I hope this defense has never been used in the US.


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