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Book review: The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson


Appreciative Maroon Loris
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79   3   1  
2019/06/12


This is a review of the non-fiction book The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson, 2018. I just couldn't put this book down! It's about a heist. Without giving away more than what's on the blurb, an accomplished musician broke into a museum to steal birds. Yes, birds. Not live ones (I can imagine that would make quite a noise) but dead stuffed birds.

Why?

It turns out there is quite a black market in a particular field for this. I was flabbergasted as to what field and why (no I won't spoil it for you).

This is a book that not only grabs your interest, but is well-researched. Along the way the author explains what these particular birds are doing in the museum to begin with and how they were collected (much more interesting than you would think). Although the main focus is the true crime story of the heist and its aftermath, I love how the author has shown not only the motivations of the thief but also the role of the birds in the museum. The author does plenty of investigative work on his own to try to answer some unanswered questions for the reader, which is very interesting.

The author also does a great job of explaining, as best as possible, the background and motivations behind the heist. I think for many readers, myself included, some of those motivations seem far-fetched (as they did to the author when he first started researching the book). Yet that is what happened. What seems so odd to me is that the thief was not a guy living in his parents' basement for whom this seemed in some warped thinking the only way out. The thief was actually an internationally accomplished musician. He had plenty of his own talents to stand on. Why would he put his reputation and future at risk with a crime like that? I still find that part of it puzzling. The author does a great job of explaining it as best as possible. I suppose any time there is a black market for anything, people will commit crimes to sell on that black market.


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Littr8
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Cover to cover
2019/06/12
1  

This is another interesting review and recommendation! Thank you.

I visited my library and found quite the waiting list! Well, now there's one more person.

You've probably heard it, but here's an interview with the author.

Appreciative Maroon Loris
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2019/06/18

Thanks, Littr8! I was not aware of the interview with the author until you mentioned it. Thank you so much for this helpful contribution.

Littr8
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Cover to cover
2019/09/02

I've just finished this book. It's a commendable work.

At it's root, I interpret it as a prime example of White Privilege. I mean, a cultured white (I presume) guy goes astray with his obsession with Victorian-era colonial plunder of natural resources (exotic bird plumage) to the point where he believes it's OK to do a smash-and-grab of irreplaceable scientific artifacts.

Just because he's obsessed with the derivative occupation of creating hobbyist works using components sourced based on really appalling practices. 

It's sad that the guy didn't face the full consequence of his actions. What if he was stuck on something less socially acceptable for his fixation? Proto-human remains as the required elements for his hobby? 

Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum.
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he living, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to mix my bread

The really scary thought is the dealer who believes that since the world is coming to end (based on biblical theory), there are no rules about how we should conduct ourselves.

I enjoyed the story based on the humanist impulses of the author. He came to this tale from his work  to support Iraqis who chose to support the US invasion.  Once the big push was over, it was no longer fashionable to acknowledge the people who picked the US side.

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