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The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal.

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  120 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The incredible true story of the decade-long quest to bring down Paul Le Roux—the creator of a frighteningly powerful Internet-enabled cartel who merged the ruthlessness of a drug lord with the technological savvy of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur

It all started as an online prescription drug network, supplying hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of painkillers to America
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published January 29th 2019 by Random House
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4.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  120 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Very strange and dark story about a man, Paul Leroux, who used his coding knowledge to eventually set himself up as some kind of barbarian drug kingpin. I am impressed at the massive amount of reporting that went into this story over several years. Despite that, it was not really my favorite. There is lots of blow-by-blow of this complicated and disturbing criminal plot but not much reflection on what it all means for our society and the human condition.

My own takeaway is that Leroux was a distu
Randal White
An amazing story! Reads like a Vince Flynn or James Bond type thriller. Who would ever have believed that there was actually a "super-villain", who manipulated events world-wide, all the while staying hidden behind the scenes? I couldn't put it down!
Bonnie Brody
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
What does the murder of a female realtor in the Philippines, shot by a 22 under each eye, have to do with small pharmacies all over the United States that are filling prescriptions over the internet? In addition, what does the foregoing have to do with hitmen, international arms dealers, the smuggling and selling of cocaine and meth, and other international crimes? If you want to know, read this book which is an investigative reporter's dream (or maybe nightmare). The author spent several years ...more
Niklas Laninge
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A top notch story which Ratliff has taken really good care of. True crime doesn’t get any better than this.
Melody (OhTheBooksSheWillRead) Hawkins
The Mastermind by Evan Ratliff is a non-fiction true crime book that focuses on the rise of Paul Calder Le Roux. Le Roux was a drug lord of international consequence. He was unique in that he was a techie, his specialty being encrypting software to enable the purchase of legal pharmaceuticals over the internet.

This story concerns a criminal organization that conducted business on six continents and involved thousands of people. Amongst the various international crimes involved, are acts of hitme
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thanks to Random House and Netgalley for the advanced copy of this upcoming true crime work. I requested it because I knew I had read something about the main character (the Mastermind) but I couldn’t remember where or when. After finishing the book, I determined from the author’s notes that it was long form articles by the same author that I had read in The Atavist. This book expands on those articles about an international criminal and possibly genius and was a great read. I applaud Mr. Ratlif ...more
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Random House via NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
It’s hard to believe this is not fiction. The story of Paul LeRoux is just so incredible. One can only wonder what may have happened had he put his considerable talents and smarts to something legitimate. Evan Ratliff spent four years researching this book and it certainly shows in the details he gives us. And I wasn’t bogged down by these details - I found them fascinating. The book is as good as any mystery thr
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The biggest criminal mastermind you've never heard of! There are two stories in this book. One is that of Paul Calder LeRoux, a Zimbabwean computer programmer who made his first millions by running online pharmacies in the early aughts. There was a lot of cleverness behind this : the three drugs that constituted the bulk of his business were not actually controlled substances - just the type of psychotropics for which there was a lot of demand. And there was no law that said doctors could only p ...more
Elizabeth Stolar
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I have to give this one a high 3 stars. I thought I’d love this book. It’s right up my alley and I was ecstatic that I won an advanced readers copy here on goodreads. But somehow, I was expecting more from it than it delivered. I expected it to tie in more closely to the war on drugs and the opioid epidemic in this country. But it really didn’t. The story was somewhat disjointed and what should have been compelling was kind of expected What ultimately happens to Paul Le Roux was anticlimactic an ...more
Jill Elizabeth
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an insane tale - proving, once again, that truth is stranger than fiction... Ratliff underwent an incredible amount of research and detective work for this one and it shows. The tale of the unraveling of Paul Calder Leroux's criminal empire was astonishing. The breadth and depth of his brilliant and evil machinations were almost unbelievable - as was the way it all wound up falling apart. The ending (such as it is; things are not entirely wrapped up because they are still ongoing) was n ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in return for a review as part of GoodReads' First Reads program.

The Mastermind is the story of Paul Calder Le Roux, one of the biggest, most deadly and most evil drug kingpins you never heard of. Born in Rhodesia (no Zimbabwe) and growing up in South Africa, he began in software, writing a program called Encryption for the Masses (E4M), which became the core of the program TrueCrypt. Disappointed that his free software was making money for someone else
Jo Sorrell

The incredible and true story of the downfall of Paul Le Roux—the creator of a frighteningly powerful Internet-enabled cartel; a ruthlessness drug lord with the technological savvy of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Its just an online prescription drug network. Yet it supplies hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of painkillers to Americans. Supply and demand,yes, and Americans are demanding their drugs. The business becomes a multinational criminal conglomerate. Yachts are carrying $100 million
Lisa Cobb Sabatini
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I won an Advance Reader's Edition of The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal. by Evan Ratliff from Goodreads.

In The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal., Evan Ratliff breaks down into sections the complex criminal enterprise and complicated investigation and prosecution, creating an easy-to-follow story. Ratliff 's investigation illuminates the people and the crimes of an incredible criminal empire.
The author begins with the fascinating backgrounds of the individuals who ended up
Nan Williams
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This non-fiction book is about the extraordinary rise to power of Paul Le Roux who became a drug lord of international consequence without ever producing anything. His expertise was in encrypting software so that legal pharmaceuticals could be bought and sold over the internet. In the beginning all the drug sales were entirely legal. He contracted with small town US pharmacies with good reputations and also contracted with doctors of good repute.

It’s a fascinating expose of how easily he put al
Steve Aberle
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal
by Evan Ratliff is so out there that if it were fiction you would say that the story was impossible. But that is what makes great non – fiction. A story too crazy to be believed. As the saying goes; the truth is stranger than fiction. And after reading The Mastermind, you will believe that saying.
A realtor is killed, and pharmacies are filling scripts over the internet. Hit men, arms deals, coke, and meth all conspire to make for an incredible inv
Shannon Brown
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting...but a bit boring by the end

I was intrigued by this non-fiction story after reading the prologue, and indeed the first few chapters are riveting. Paul Leroux is a devious mastermind who helped fuel the opioid epidemic in the US. The way in which he skirted the laws and laundered his money were genius because it was almost legal. The author makes a very good case that had Leroux continued in that vein, instead of breaking all the way bad, he would have been a celebrated billionaire.
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mastermind is a great book for those interested in true crime and thrilling intrigue. To me it reads a lot like the TV show Blacklist except that this is a real life occurrence. This nonfiction piece follows the long investigation into the criminal empire of Paul Le Roux. It traverses through his various aliases, accomplices, schemes, and dangerous exotic locales. The DEA follows the clues left behind of RX Limited leading to the dark and seedy side of Le Roux's business practices that hide murd ...more
Linda S.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book for free from netgallery in return for a review. First, I will start by saying that the title of the book is so appropriate! Paul Le Roux is definitely a brilliant man, albeit a twisted one. Ratliff does a great job detailing all of the various ventures that Le Roux was working, and believe me...there are many! In some ways, the level of detail is overwhelming, but I think that’s a necessary evil in a story this complex. All the while I was reading this I couldn’t ...more
Jessica Johnson
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reading
This book took the criminal world and the virtual world and made them into one. The story has your violence from betrayal that is brought front and center as it happens, but it doesn't shy away from what is the true crime. The true scheme, doctors, pharmacies, drugs; not just local either - from the tiniest cities in Minnesota to beautiful South Africa, to the poorest areas of the Philippines. Evan Ratliff has really done his research with this one, and it shows. Pages kept turning and I had to ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal. Scary, scary, scary! This author, journalist Evan Ratliff, spent years following/investigating the trail of programmer Paul LeRoux, who managed to build a drug cartel from Sillicon Valley. This reads like so many action movies about international drug cartels. It brings those 'scripts' to real life. This massive account does bog down with complicated details of the investigation. Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Ava Huang
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is RIVETING. I finished it over the course of an evening. It feels like a thriller, but Paul Le Roux is an odder character than you'd think fiction could produce and the strangeness of what unfolds just keeps going on and on until the size and complexity of the criminal organization he runs completely exceeds plausibility. There's just an incredible amount of absolutely bonkers material. Reality as surrealism, basically. You'll be glued to it.
Susan Wright
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I was captivated within the first several pages of this work and had to keep reminding myself that this is a factual account. The amount of work that Ratcliff put into his research and compilation is remarkable. One has to respect Le Roux's intelligence and drive to create such a mind boggling criminal enterprise; imagine if that knowledge and energy to a more prosocial endeavor.

Thank you Goodreads for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this!
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a gripping true story about an intricate web of crime that has touched most of America. It tells the story of a Gen-X genius who used the internet to build an international empire of drugs and guns. The story is well crafted, easy to understand and fast paced. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how drug enforcement works and doesn't work now.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: highly-rated
Absolutely riveting investigative reporting at its best. Many of the tech founders have been in the news lately, so we're becoming more and more aware of just how dangerous the web can be, but it's much worse than I imagined, especially in the hands of an evil genius. I found this as frightening as any Stephen King novel, but this is all true. Shocking story!
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I won't say much because I don't want to give away anything. If you read this (and you should), don't google anything about Paul Le Roux. An evil guy, but his story is more thrilling and unbelievable than most fiction. I had to put it down for a bit (life!) and couldn't wait to get back to it.

Reed Galen
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Terrific, fast-paced read that is a cross between Keyser Soze, a John le Carre conspiracy and Jason Bourne thriller - but it’s all true. From American bureaucrats to mindless mercenaries, this is a page turner worth your time.
Henry Habgood
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic Book

Incredible insight into a generally unknown criminal enterprise. Very engaging and well laid out story and cast of characters. It’s hard to believe that this is true.
Sabra Kurth
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
What an amazing piece of reporting. If it was fiction no one would believe it. Lots of characters, sometimes you forget who's who. But I enjoyed it to the end.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. However, it could have gone into more detail about the effects of crime instead of just the methods. Overall, it was very well-written and researched.
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Evan Ratliff is the editor of The Atavist magazine. His writing has appeared in Wired, where he is a contributing editor; The New Yorker; National Geographic; and other publications. He is also the story editor of Pop-Up Magazine, a live event.
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