From: Maddie Perlman-Gabel, ENN
Published May 6, 2011 11:23 AM

Book Review: Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Thief

When I first picked up Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of The Worlds Most Notorious Butterfly Thief by Jessica Weart, I wasn't very excited. A book about butterfly collectors, how exciting can that be? When I think butterfly collectors, I think of an uptight old man, passively smoking a pipe, listening to classical music, nothing exciting. Turns out lepidopterists, butterfly collectors, aren't the boring types I thought they were. Butterfly collecting can become a passionate, expensive obsession. Some rare butterflies are valued over 30,000 dollars, and there have been instances where collectors have risked it all in order to obtain a unique butterfly for their collection.


Actually, I found out there are famous lepidopterists, including the controversial writer of Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov. In Winged Obsession, Weart attempts to explore this obsession, by following the true story of the "capture" of the world's most infamous butterfly dealer, Yoshi Kojima. The story is the epitome of cat and mouse, (or should I say butterfly and net), starring United States Fish and Wildlife agent Ted Newcomer and butterfly master smuggler Yoshi Kojima. Kojima considers himself the Indiana Jones of butterflies, and had been able to elude wildlife protection for years due his ability to create an elaborate web of lies, mind the bug pun.

Kojima, is Newcomers first case as a wildlife agent. At first he is disappointed, since he is not a fan of insects, and was hoping for something sexier, like the trade of elephant tusks or gorilla feet. He quickly overcomes his disappointment once he meets Kojima. He is intrigued by Kojima's personality and makes it his goal to be the man to bring Kojima to justice.

Kojima is a master smuggler because he is a pathological liar and has no qualms betraying his partners and undercutting his competition. Newcomer pretends to be interested in becoming a butterfly dealer and Kojima takes a special interest in Newcomber. They develop an interesting and tumultuous relationship. Eventually, Newcomber brings Kojima to justice, but Kojimas bipolar personality and tremendous skills of lying makes a difficult challenge. As I read the book, I was always wondering what Kojima will say or do next and how far New comer would go to catch him.

Winged Obsession is a little slow. I wish it included more history of the US Fish and Wildlife Sevice as well as more of the history and incidents in the exciting world of lepidopterists. The book does not include pictures of the butterflies mentioned, so you will need to be by a computer in order to fully visualize the butterflies described in the book. Jessica Speart wrote winged obsession after being intrigued by a series of articles in the national papers on the arrest of Kojima. Speart became so intrigued with the story, that after Kojima's release from the American prison she went to Japan to meet the man behind the stories.

Winged Obsession should be read by anyone who likes thrillers with crazy real villains, or is interested in the roll of wildlife agents. And who knows maybe you'll be get obsessed too.

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