The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson

I DEVOURED this book in one day. This non-fiction book is so over the top that it almost seems improbable. The combination of mystery, ornithology, biology, and obsession is just wonderful.

To protect them from Hitler’s bombers, the curators secreted Wallace’s and Darwin’s bird skins in unmarked lorries to manors and mansions throughout the English countryside. Among the safe houses was a private museum in the tiny town of Tring, built by one of the richest men in history as a twenty-first birthday present for his son.

Edwin Rist, an accomplished flautist and champion salmon fly-tier, steals rare birds from a museum in England and gets away with it for years. This story is not only about Rist, but also about why this was such a monumental thing to happen to the scientific community.

A relieved consensus was forming. It appeared as though their culprit had poked his head in, looked around, and finding nothing of value left empty handed.

The author is such a compelling writer, he brings a little bit of himself into the story and shows his own obsession (which doesn’t even come close to the other obsessions talked about.) I love that he writes in such a way where you feel like you aren’t drowning in so many thick facts, that you either gloss over or never remember. Do yourself a favor and read this book. I must warn you: it’s hella interesting stuff.

On flytyingforum.com, someone posted an article about the arrest under the headline “ Rare Feather Thief Busted…and he’s one of us. Shocking.”

On flyfishing.co.uk a user wrote “I hope Rist is found guilty, is jailed and then deported, his feathers and fly collection should be confiscated, for incineration.”

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