This book review of The Feather Thief was written by Marcia Mercer, Circulation Clerk from our Bainbridge Branch. Find all Staff Book Reviews here.
In addition to being a renowned American flautist studying music at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Edwin Rist was also a well-known and respected salmon fly-tier, learning the craft at a young age. One evening he boards a train and heads to the British Museum of Natural History in a suburb outside London to steal millions of dollars in exotic dead birds to sell over the Internet to other fly-tiers. Based on a true story, the book gives the reader incite to the art of fly-tying and the passion and sometimes obsession that these craft men have in obtaining exotic feathers. The book goes into some history of fly-tying and the often-times cruel punishment of birds in order to keep them contained to harvest their feathers, but what I found most interesting about this story is how easy it was for Edwin to break into the museum due to the lack of security and that the theft was not discovered until months later. It was pure luck that eventually Edwin got caught.
Though fly-fishing may not seem like an exciting read to anyone other than those who like to fish, this book offers interesting facts on exotic birds and how obsessed one can become with a craft they he or she loves as well as how a 20-year-old flautist almost got away with what some consider “the crime of the century.”
I read this book for my local book club, but the group did not have the opportunity to discuss due to COVID-19 closings in the Spring. This was disappointing, because I enjoyed the book, and I know we would have had a great discussion about what drove Edwin to commit this crime.