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The Mastermind

Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal.
Written by: Evan Ratliff
Narrated by: Evan Ratliff
Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
4 out of 5 stars (27 ratings)

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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)

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.

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

“With his relentless and fearless reporting, Evan Ratliff has pried open a hidden world filled with high-tech gangsters and drug kingpins and double-crossers and stone-cold hitmen. The story is as fascinating as it is terrifying, and it is one that will hold you in its grip.” (David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon)

©2019 Evan Ratliff (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“A true crime classic.” (Publishers Weekly)

“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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Average Customer Ratings

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one of two versions.<br /><br />

Great book I read this one and Hunting Leroux and I suggest that you read both! This one I liked just a tad bit more but both great versions!

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A terrific story needs a great reader

Evan Ratliff has performed a remarkable feat in The Mastermind . The book is thoroughly researched; the story is compelling, taut and suspenseful. If it weren’t true, it would be unbelievable. It is really great stuff. Therefore it was disappointing that Ratliff chose to read the work himself. His delivery was that of a student reading his essay aloud to the class: flat and uninspiring. Why do authors do this? Almost none of them, in my experience, have the skills and range of a professional actor. It’s a minor irritation and should not discourage anyone from enjoying this incredible tale.

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  • That Guy Craig
  • 2019-03-30

Riveting and incredibly savage

Loved every moment of it! The most savage unknown kingpin you’ve never heard of! Must read

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Hartwig
  • Vegas
  • 2019-03-17

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Colin Strasser
  • Salt Lake City, UTAH, USA
  • 2019-04-10

I really couldn't stop listening.

This was an exciting book that kept me wanting to always hear more.


Thanks Colin.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Eileen Clark-Nagaoka
  • 2019-04-07

Incredible , true, story

I learned about this book through the podcast “Longform” and I’m so glad I looked into it. This is an amazing story about a brilliant criminal and his international enterprises. I would often listen to it while in bed, trying to get to sleep which I often couldn’t do because of the dramatic twists and turns of the narrative.
My only complaint is that the narrator sometimes spoke too quickly. I frequently had to repeat segments. But perhaps I was distracted (or more sleepy than I realized).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Russell
  • 2019-02-13

Ho Hum

This seems like it should be a really big story and it seems like there was a lot of work that went into writing it but, I just couldn’t get into it. Not bad but I don’t think I would buy it again.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Nick
  • 2019-01-30

hard to follow.

this book sounded like it would be a good listen, but it's anything but that. the story is all over the place and the listener is rushed from one scene to another, with zero time to digest what they just heard. after listening to nearly 5 hours I gave up.

10 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • El Alamein
  • Los Angeles CA
  • 2019-07-17

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.

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  • Michelle Kincaid
  • 2019-07-15

Flow is not there

I really wanted to like this book. I recently read Bad Blood, American Kingpin, and Billion Dollar Whale -- so you could say I'm on a high of true-crime books that mesh traditional fraud with technology. When I saw this book blended drug lords and Silicon Valley entrepreneurship, I thought "sign me up," especially because the author hails from the tech world as a Wired reporter.

In realty, this book tries and fails to make the leap between how traditional vs. modern, tech-savvy scammers exist today. The flow of the story was also hard to follow, with several jumps back and forth, likely intending to build suspense -- however, most of the potentially suspenseful pieces were told upfront, thus leaving the rest of the story to drag. This would be best as a few-pages Wired magazine story, not an entire book.

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  • Karl A.
  • 2019-07-08

excellent. front to back.

top shelf production. great writing, perfect narration. clear your day when you start it. you will make up stuff to do so you can keep the earbuds in until the end

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  • Carolyn Foster
  • Henderson, NV
  • 2019-07-08

Movie?

So when is the movie coming out? This story deserves one. It's a great story. WOW!