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Publisher's Summary

The orchid thief in Susan Orlean's mesmerizing true story of beauty and obsession is John Laroche, a renegade plant dealer and sharply handsome guy, in spite of the fact that he is missing his front teeth and has the posture of al dente spaghetti. In 1994, Laroche and three Seminole Indians were arrested with rare orchids they had stolen from a wild swamp in south Florida that is filled with some of the world's most extraordinary plants and trees. Laroche had planned to clone the orchids and then sell them for a small fortune to impassioned collectors. After he was caught in the act, Laroche set off one of the oddest legal controversies in recent memory, which brought together environmentalists, Native American activists, and devoted orchid collectors. The result is a tale that is strange, compelling, and hilarious. New Yorker writer Susan Orlean followed Laroche through swamps and into the eccentric world of Florida's orchid collectors, a subculture of aristocrats, fanatics, and smugglers whose obsession with plants is all-consuming. Along the way, Orlean learned the history of orchid collecting, discovered an odd pattern of plant crimes in Florida, and spent time with Laroche's partners, a tribe of Seminole Indians who are still at war with the United States.
There is something fascinating or funny or truly bizarre on every page of The Orchid Thief: the story of how the head of a famous Seminole chief came to be displayed in the front window of a local pharmacy; or how 700 iguanas were smuggled into Florida; or the case of the only known extraterrestrial plant crime. Ultimately, however, Susan Orlean's book is about passion itself, and the amazing lengths to which people will go to gratify it. That passion is captured with singular vision in The Orchid Thief, a once-in-a-lifetime story by a truly original journalist.
©1998 Susan Orlean
(P)2001 Random House, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Stylishly written, whimsical yet sophisticated, quirkily detached...It shows Orlean's gifts in full bloom." (New York Times Book Review)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Amazon Customer on 02-09-03

Orchids are just the vehicle.

Yes, it's about orchids, but it's really about obsession, passion, collecting, and the meaning of life. Also theft, greed, bizarre collectors and explorers. This is the best book I've listened to in a couple of years.

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23 of 23 people found this review helpful

By Ljsc on 03-02-04

Would the real Susan Orlean please stand up

I listened to this in addition to reading the book in preparation for a book review. I was surprised at how sarcastic the narration came across in this audio version. It gave me a completely different view of the author and I can't help wondering what the book would have felt like if the author had preformed the audio herself and from which perspective she would present herself. As far as the writing went I appreciated the author's ability to share the diverse personalities, flaws and all, of her subjects and still present a friendly view of them. I learned a huge amount about florida, orchids, smuggling and the people attracted to all three. With so much detail to cover and many tangents to intigrate into the book Orlean's writing style is well suited to the material. The result is a very human view of a odd microcosim within our human family.

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9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Amazon Customer on 01-02-18

good story, not best performance

A very interesting story and one I will pick up in hard copy. Unfortunately the audible version is strangely narrated. The narrator is inconsistent in tone and seems to rush through the book. The first quarter of the book the chapters do not merge well and end of sentences are lost.

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