By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated January 15, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
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The Orchid Thief

type
  • Book
genre

A few years ago, New Yorker writer Susan Orlean read a small item in a Florida newspaper about a man named John Laroche who was arrested for stealing rare orchids from a Miami swamp. She went south to investigate and soon found herself immersed in the world of orchid fanatics, trailing Laroche, ”a single-minded lunatic,” and assorted other orchid-loving characters. ”I suppose [I was] figuring out how people found order and contentment and a sense of purpose in the universe by fixing their sights on one single thing or one belief or one desire,” she writes. While she may have figured it out, however, at the end of her journey the reader hasn’t; the portraits in The Orchid Thief are finely drawn and certainly a pleasure to read, but ultimately they don’t lead anywhere. The effect is like standing too close to a pointillist painting. B

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The Orchid Thief

type
  • Book
genre
author
  • Susan Orlean
publisher
  • Random House

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