The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
Who is Edwin Rist?
Genius or Narcissist? Mastermind or Pawn?
One summer evening in 2009, twenty-year-old musical prodigy Edwin Rist broke into the British Museum of Natural History. Hours later, he slipped away with a suitcase full of rare bird specimens collected over the centuries from across the world, all featuring a dazzling array of priceless feathers.
Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist-deep in a river in New Mexico when he first heard about the heist, from his fly-fishing guide. When he discovered that the thief evaded prison, and that half the birds were never recovered, Johnson embarked upon a years-long worldwide investigation which led him deep into the fiercely secretive underground community obsessed with the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying.
A page-turning story of a bizarre and shocking crime, The Feather Thief shines a light on our fraught relationship with the natural world's most beautiful and valuable wonders, and one man's relentless quest for justice.
"A true-crime tale that weaves seemingly unrelated threads into a spellbinding narrative tapestry" -- Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu "A captivating tale of an unlikely thief and his even more unlikely crime, and a meditation on obsession, greed, and the sheer fascination in something as seemingly simple as a feather" -- Paul Collins, author of The Murder of the Century "This is the type of book I absolutely love - one that takes a seemingly obscure topic and shines a brilliant and bizarre and endlessly fascinating light upon it. Kirk Wallace Johnson's portrayal of the crazy world of feather fanatics makes this an unforgettable read" -- Michael Finkel, author of The Stranger in the Woods "This gem of a book, is marvelous, moving, and transcendent. I can't stop thinking about it" -- Dean King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara "This extraordinary book exposes an international underground that traffics in rare and precious natural resources, yet was previously unknown to all but a few. A page-turning read you won't soon forget, The Feather Thief tells us as much about our cultural priorities as it does about the crimes themselves. There's never been anything like it" -- Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs
Kirk W. Johnson is an American author and founder of The List Project, a not-for-profit foundation that helps Iraqi refugees who previously worked for the U.S. government during the Iraq War. He lives in LA.