The 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.
...thoughtful, deftly written ... Ratliff recognizes that Le Roux, despite his over-the-top heinousness, is at base an uninteresting figure. He focuses instead on the workings of his empire ... a fascinating chronicle, especially when Ratliff turns to the many ways poor nations serve as spillways for the dark excesses of rich ones ... penetrating—and more interesting [than Shannon's book Hunting Le Roux] ... Ratliff has produced a sharp and critical examination of the entirety of the case.
...[a] possessed true-crime investigation ... Ratliff’s journey is not just one of miles logged on the ground, but of incomparable oddness ... One of the pleasures of The Mastermind is the way in which the story effortlessly toggles between the mundane and the macabre ... haunting ... aside from the other triumphs of The Mastermind, Ratliff clearly deserves this year’s Award for Dogged Journalism for staying on his target until the very end. Without spoiling his story, the end arrives with yet another twist ... Ratliff’s efforts fail only when he tries to lash his story to sweeping themes ... Ratliff’s tale is unique, so strange and so compelling.
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.