“The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century” by Kirk W. Johnson (Penguin Publishing Group; April 24, 2018):
On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins—some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them—and escaped into the darkness.
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 years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man’s relentless pursuit of justice, “The Feather Thief” is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man’s destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.
“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer” by Michelle McNamara, Gillian Flynn (Introduction), Patton Oswalt (Afterword) (HarperCollins Publishers; February 27, 2018):
For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle’s dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.
“Hunting El Chapo: The Inside Story of the American Lawman Who Captured the World’s Most Wanted Drug-Lord” by Andrew Hogan (HarperCollins; April 3, 2018):
Every generation has a larger-than-life criminal: Jesse James, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, Al Capone, John Gotti, Pablo Escobar. But each of these notorious lawbreakers had a “white hat” in pursuit: Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrett, Eliot Ness, Steve Murphy. For notorious drug lord Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán-Loera—El Chapo—that lawman is former Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Andrew Hogan.
In 2006, fresh out of the D.E.A. Academy, Hogan heads west to Arizona where he immediately plunges into a series of gripping undercover adventures, all unknowingly placing him on the trail of Guzmán, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, a Forbes billionaire and Public Enemy No. 1 in the United States. Six years later, as head of the D.E.A.’s Sinaloa Cartel desk in Mexico City, Hogan finds his life and Chapo’s are ironically, on parallel paths: they’re both obsessed with the details.
In a recasting of the classic American Western on the global stage, “Hunting El Chapo” takes us on Hogan’s quest to achieve the seemingly impossible, from infiltrating El Chapo’s inner circle to leading a white-knuckle manhunt with an elite brigade of trusted Mexican Marines—racing door-to-door through the cartel’s stronghold and ultimately bringing the elusive and murderous king-pin to justice.