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The Mastermind

Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal.
Written by: Evan Ratliff
Narrated by: Evan Ratliff
Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (36 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.

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

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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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely outstanding! listened a few times.

This book was just what i was looking for. Very well written and narrated. A phenomenal story of corruption. I gave it a few listens to make sure that i didnt miss anything. Would recommend this book to anyone. Good shit, Evan Ratliff.

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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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  • J. Hartwig
  • 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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    3 out of 5 stars
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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.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • El Alamein
  • 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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nurture Learners and Able Observers
  • 2019-07-08

Brilliant. Evan Ratliff has no peers.

Not for people with a limited attention span. This guy had to cover so many people across so many nations under so many different conditions over so many years you have to have mathematical abilities to keep up with his meticulous mathematics. That he was even able to document this crime spree and deliver it qualifies him as a peer to Noah Webster writing a dictionary. Brilliant. You could never know this story without these amazing abilities of communication combined with mathematics. He can think with every red flag, moral, legal, economic, cultural, and policial. And lay it all out for you to understand. I mean, wow is this guy qualified to raise awareness! Internet crime is a whole new venue. : Evan Ratliff is one of the first "true crime" writers to get it. Brace yourself. His panoramic views may stretch your thinking abilities. He really takes your heart into humanity with all of it if you just surrender in trust, you will understand this labor of love in teaching you about real and current social dichotomies. You will never forget this story. Listen.Evan Ratliff went the distance to get to what is real.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Colin Strasser
  • 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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  • 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 4 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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  • M. Brinkerhoff
  • 2019-10-14

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.

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  • Rich Dunkel
  • 2019-10-13

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