ABOUT THE BOOK:
On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American
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
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The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson is a 2019 Penguin publication.
This is another book that has sat on my TBR list for an entire year. I added it because it was labeled as true crime and because the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. However, every time I thought about reading it, I changed my mind, because I wasn’t sure if I would fully understand the premise, for one thing, and for another, I was afraid it would bore me silly. It just didn’t sound like a topic that would interest me in the least. I decided I should at least give it a try, because all those positive reviews had to mean something, right?
I admit I still don’t fully understand fly fishing, or the obsession with Salmon fliers. I still don’t have any interest in the sport, and I never will- but one thing is for sure- I was never bored while reading this book!
It seems there is nothing out there in this world that doesn’t have a dark underbelly…
The author of this book first learned of Edwin Rist while fly fishing in Mexico, and quickly became as obsessed with this crime as Edwin Rist was with rare bird skins and Salmon fliers.
What are Salmon fliers? Apparently, they are a brightly colored
Edwin Rist, a musician, also happened to be an expert Salmon
Once Kirk Wallace Johnson heard about this most unusual heist, he jumped down the rabbit hole with both feet, beginning a long journey for the truth, which culminated in this book.
I don’t understand the concept of being an expert ‘
The author traces the origins of the feathers and how they came to be in the museum, which is far more interesting than one might think. From there the book builds into a detective story, then a legal drama, then finally a personal quest for the whole truth and maybe some modicum of justice.
Not to give too much away, but evidently, Rist earned some money from his daring heist, selling some of the feathers/ skins on the black market. Yes, there really is a black market for these feathers and a lucrative one at that. I knew one could find all manner of things for sale on
While Rist was eventually caught, his legal troubles didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated
Some mysteries remain unsolved, but one can take a few educated guesses about what happened and why, though that knowledge doesn’t bring about much satisfaction.
Today, Rist uses a different name, and has carved out a unique niche for himself by playing heavy metal music with his flute- perhaps the flute he bought with his eBay profits.
Rist, who claims to suffer from Asperger's syndrome is clever, educated, talented and skilled, and while his crime is not a violent one, he still did a horrible thing- and based on Johnson's exclusive interviews with Rist, he comes off as a greedy, little sociopath who never expressed the proper amount of remorse for his crimes. I’m afraid I did not find him to be
As to the writing and organization of the book- the presentation is very well done. However, the author does take an interesting stance here. He took a risk, in my opinion, by inserting himself into the saga by calling out the fly-fishing community for their role in helping to create the
I usually become exasperated if an author refuses to maintain strict neutrality when writing nonfiction. I want the facts, not the author's interpretation of them, or his or her opinion. In this case, however, I can understand why Johnson felt compelled to make such a bold move and he was right in doing so.
Ultimately, this is a fascinating True Crime saga. I found myself immersed in it, more than I ever imagined possible. I learned some interesting history, and a lot about bird feathers/skins, salmon fliers and expert tiers, as
While this may not sound like a book that would appeal to a broad audience, it should. Those familiar with the sport of fly-fishing will understand aspects and nuances many of us never will, about this case, but historians, true crime readers, mystery fans and even fans of legal dramas, will find this to be a very compelling story.
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