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Publisher's Summary

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.

"A tour de force of shoe-leather reporting - undertaken, amid threats and menacing, at considerable personal risk." (Los Angeles Times)

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book ReviewNPREvening StandardKirkus Reviews

It all started as an online prescription drug network, supplying hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of painkillers to American customers. It would not stop there. Before long, the business had turned into a sprawling multinational conglomerate engaged in almost every conceivable aspect of criminal mayhem. Yachts carrying $100 million in cocaine. Safe houses in Hong Kong filled with gold bars. Shipments of methamphetamine from North Korea. Weapons deals with Iran. Mercenary armies in Somalia. Teams of hit men in the Philippines. Encryption programs so advanced that the government could not break them. The man behind it all, pulling the strings from a laptop in Manila, was Paul Calder Le Roux - a reclusive programmer turned criminal genius who could only exist in the networked world of the 21st century, and the kind of self-made crime boss that American law enforcement had never imagined. For half a decade, DEA agents played a global game of cat-and-mouse with Le Roux as he left terror and chaos in his wake. Each time they came close, he would slip away. It would take relentless investigative work, and a shocking betrayal from within his organization, to catch him. And when he was finally caught, the story turned again, as Le Roux struck a deal to bring down his own organization and the people he had once employed. 

Award-winning investigative journalist Evan Ratliff spent four years piecing together this intricate puzzle, chasing Le Roux's empire and his shadowy henchmen around the world, conducting hundreds of interviews and uncovering thousands of documents. The result is a riveting, unprecedented account of a crime boss built by and for the digital age.

Praise for The Mastermind

"The Mastermind is true crime at its most stark and vivid depiction. Evan Ratliff's work is well done from beginning to end, paralleling his investigative work with the work of the many federal agents developing the case against LeRoux." (San Francisco Book Review, five stars)

"A wholly engrossing story that joins the worlds of El Chapo and Edward Snowden; both disturbing and memorable." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

©2019 Evan Ratliff (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

The Mastermind is a tour de force of shoe-leather reporting - undertaken, amid threats and menacing, at considerable personal risk. Ratliff’s reportage unfolds in crisp, atmospheric prose, and he brings a dispassionate eye to a milieu lousy with unreliable narrators, triangulating where possible to separate fact from legend.” (Los Angeles Times)

“If truth is stranger than fiction, then The Mastermind is the truest book you’ll read this year. The only thing predictable about it is how quickly you’ll turn the pages.” (Noah Hawley, author of Before the Fall and creator of the TV series Fargo)

“As directors, we spend countless hours imagining heightened plots and memorable characters that will leave a lasting impression on audiences. The true tale of obsession, genius, intrigue, and vengeance detailed in The Mastermind is as gripping and cinematic as anything we could endeavor to conjure up.” (Joe and Anthony Russo, directors, Captain America and Avengers: Infinity War)

“This is a mesmerizing, absolutely bonkers story about a man as brilliant as he is villainous. You’ll find yourself sucked in, freaked out, and ultimately blown away by Ratliff's storytelling and tireless reporting. The Mastermind is a masterpiece.” (Nick Thompson, editor-in-chief, Wired)

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What listeners say about The Mastermind

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Is it me? Yawn.

I’m 3 efforted hours into this book. Based on reviews, I expected it to captivate my interest. That not happening, I’ve adjusted my expectations and listened from a more open POV, assuming the writer’s style requires listener-adjustment. Now I’m down to trying really hard to continue paying attention. Let’s see, a the owner of one of thousands of online pharmacies sells medications that are not controlled. He’s Jewish but doesn’t look it. He’s in his 30s but doesn’t look it. He wears shorts and flip flops. He has various business associates in the Philippines, Africa, and other parts of the world. Something about methamphetimine. Something about Kentucky. LeRoux. He constructs his business dealings in a way that’s hard for DEA to put their hands on him. I’m continually brought back to the thought that “the narrator is pretty good”, no doubt in some codependent knee-jerk attempt to justify this purchase. Beyond that, I’m still not able to put my finger on what it is that convinced a publisher to give the go ahead on this title. I can’t invest any more time hoping for get what it is that’s inspired some to become enthused. I don’t get it. I’m losing the thread even within paragraphs.

3 people found this helpful

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Amazing Read!

I was a little concerned when purchasing this book that the writing would be a bit jumbled per some other reviews. That said I found it to be fantastic and the books author to have great voice narration. I came across this story after listening about it on the Reply ALL podcast and it sounded so interesting I had to get it. If someone would of just told me this story without any context, I would of thought it was total bullshit. We have all heard of El Chapo and other Narco kingpins doing crazy stuff. I would argue the main character in this story trumps them all hands down. I could not stop listening and like the author, I came away feeling that justice really had not been served. In any case, kudos to the author, it is an absolutely amazing story and you did a fantastic job taking us there.

6 people found this helpful

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Don’t miss this book!

Mind-twister!! Incredible story!! It will be interesting to see what develops with Paul’s case...in the end.

2 people found this helpful

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A good listen....

A good listen, especially if you're unfamiliar with the story, but I found it somewhat lackluster after listening to "Hunting LeRoux"... I highly recommend that book first then this one, as this book ties up a few ends not covered in hunting LeRoux. Both are worth listening to.

2 people found this helpful

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Exceptionally detailed and enthralling

If you like detail and trans-national crime, it's hard to find any fault with this book.

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting story - very detailed

Masterminds has a very interesting story and the is well documented. Book is written in extreme detail. This was a little too detailed for me.

2 people found this helpful

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Fabulous read

O had no idea that the world is online pharmacy existed, not did I realize the extant of it. Makes me wonder how it goes into the oxycodone tragedy we are facing

2 people found this helpful

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Masterful accounting of a secret crime lord

The content of the story is intriguing and the construction entertaining. Paul Le Roux is a real life villain.

2 people found this helpful

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Mind blowing true story

Must read! It’s almost unbelievable that this story is true. Sometimes it gets a bit confusing with all the characters involved but at the end it all comes together.

2 people found this helpful

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Being too reliant on consensus backfires occasiona

So this received overwhelming positive reviews, most people gave it 5 stars. I've never felt truly suckered into an audible selection until now. Reviewers included a lot of cliches like "fast paced", "couldn't put it down", "fact scarier than fiction" and on and on. Spoiler alert: A chubby South African computer nerd/sexual deviant sells weak ass, unscheduled prescription drugs over the internet. Fioricet, Soma. and Ultram existed in a kind of legal grey area for years because *they aren't proper narcotics*!. Calling Ultram a synthetic opioid is like saying O'Doul's is a type of trappist ale. If it wasn't for a couple of overzealous, nanny state loving DEA agents, no one would have cared about this so called "mastermind". As far as the writing goes... the author writes like a typical print journalist. Nothing more, nothing less. If i could pick over again, I'd pick something else.

7 people found this helpful