The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson
First line: By the time Edwin Rist stepped off the train onto the platform at Tring, forty miles north of London, it was already quite late.
Summary: In 2009, a young American student broke into the Tring Museum and stole hundreds of bird skins and feathers. The museum was known for housing thousands of specimens gathered by scientists in the nineteenth century. Why did he decide to steal birds? Well, he was a part of an exclusive group of artists, he was a fly-tier. For nearly two years the young man had gotten away with the crime.
While fly-fishing in New Mexico, Kirk Johnson heard about this wild heist. He became intrigued by the case and how the culprit was caught and prosecuted. Kirk had to know the answers. He began asking questions of other fly-tiers. He tried to interview witnesses, friends and even the thief. As he got answers he kept coming back to one question. What happened to the missing skins?
My Thoughts: Dawn and her book club, The Bemused Bibliophiles, read this book several years ago. She recommended it to me and even encouraged me to buy it for my father as a Christmas gift, which I did. He loved it and passed it along to my uncle who is a fly-tier and an avid fly fisher.
Finally this year I decided it was time to pick this up myself. I found it absolutely fascinating. I finished the book in 2 days. I had no idea the level of passion that fly-tiers had for the different feathers that are used in tying. People pay loads of money for feathers but many do not even use the flies for fishing. It just blew me away learning all this!
I liked that the book took me through the history of how the birds came to the museum, about the man who discovered them and why these species have become so rare. It is terribly sad to learn how humans have hunted these birds to extinction in the name of fashion and art. I did have to do a lot of Googling to see what these birds looked like. I would highly recommend doing this while reading Johnson’s book. The different species are stunning. I would have loved to see these birds in real life.
Even for someone who hates fishing (aka me) I found this book to be interesting. It is a very quick read with lots of information and shocking facts.
FYI: Perfect for that fisherman in your family or anyone who loves a good true crime.