The Mastermind by Evan Ratliff, read by the author
Recent reporting on the opioid epidemic has focused on the role that legitimate drug companies such as Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, have played in getting millions of Americans hooked on painkillers. Less well known is the effect that online pharmacies, many of which operate in a legal gray area, have also had in laying the groundwork for the epidemic. As investigative reporter Evan Ratliff reveals in this fascinating and deeply disturbing work of true crime, one such company, RX Limited, not only sold several hundred million dollars’ worth of pills from 2004 to 2014—it was also part of a vast global crime network that included arms deals with Iran, the distribution of Colombian cocaine and North Korean methamphetamine, and at least six murders. Behind it all was a brilliant Zimbabwean computer programmer named Paul Le Roux, creator of some of the world’s most impenetrable encryption software. Ratliff traces the story of Le Roux’s astonishing journey from desk jockey to cartel boss to DEA informant with wit and precision, offering a rare glimpse into the sinister world that operates just below the sleek surface of our modern, globalized economy.