THE MASTERMIND Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal. By Evan Ratliff
World-class criminals, like world-class writers, are natural obsessives. Alone in their rooms, they both spin endless plots, picking at the details of their projects.
Near the start of “The Mastermind,” Evan Ratliff’s possessed true-crime investigation, there is a stop-and-gawk image of the obsessive outlaw with whom he becomes obsessed: Paul Le Roux, the South African kingpin who gives the work its title. The scene takes place in a thriller-worthy setting — a penthouse condo in Manila, where Le Roux has based his illegal organization. But when one of Ratliff’s sources enters the apartment, he finds the potbellied crime lord in the most unlikely guise: dressed in shorts and flip-flops and perched behind a desk in a room filled with digital servers.
The 300 fever-heated pages that ensue are, in a sense, the author’s agitated — and sometimes self-imperiling — attempt to understand that bizarre tableau and to figure out how Paul Le Roux transformed himself, in the course of 30 years, from a teenage tech geek with a talent for encryption to an international villain with a cadre of mercenaries protecting his interests in everything from Congolese gold to North Korean meth. Ratliff’s journey is not just one of miles logged on the ground, but of incomparable oddness. In his hunt for those who knew Le Roux, he goes to Minnesota, the Philippines, Israel, Brazil and Vietnam, encountering a cast of characters out of a Coen brothers film: a grizzled Canadian security operative, an elderly pharmacist, a target-shooting Filipino cop, a South African hit man and the pseudonymous informant who ran Le Roux’s business in Somalia and later helped the American authorities to capture him.
The narrator fixed on an elusive prey has been a well-worn device at least since “Moby-Dick,” but if there were ever a subject worthy of investigative mania, it is Paul Le Roux. The man was into anything and everything: high-speed yachts, precious metals, plastic explosives, tuna fishing, piracy, Predator drones, Peruvian cocaine and hallucinogens. “He wanted to be the king of his country,” according to the informant who ultimately brought him down. “The big man. Sitting on his fat ass behind a giant desk in his palace.”
In the midst of his pursuit, Ratliff — like a serial-killer fan boy — tapes multicolored Post-it notes to his bedroom wall in an effort to understand his protagonist’s sprawling empire. “I’d like to claim that this was some kind of linear process, a journalist-turned-detective expertly following a trail of bread crumbs down the path to a secret lair,” he writes. “But, in truth, people and stories came to me scattershot, and I found myself constantly circling back to re-evaluate some fact that I’d been told before.”
One of the pleasures of “The Mastermind” is the way in which the story effortlessly toggles between the mundane and the macabre. Le Roux’s chief business — and the source of his great wealth — was, for several years, an online pharmacy network. Unsuspecting customers would place their orders for painkillers like Tramadol to call centers run by a company known as RX Limited. Licensed doctors, most in the United States, would evaluate the requests and — unaware of where the payments were going — authorize prescriptions to be handed out by pharmacists from Brooklyn to Wisconsin.
While some of the money was siphoned off along the way to keep the pill mill (and its largely unwitting participants) in motion, the bulk of it was hoarded by Le Roux to fund the rest of his illicit operations. This trick of funneling quasi-legal profits into wholly illegal business ventures eventually led to the crime lord’s downfall as investigators dug into the innards of his scheme. It also provided Ratliff with the philosophical ballast of his story. Violent crime, he notes, often exists in vertiginous proximity to ordinary life.
This “adjacent reality,” as Ratliff calls it, is Le Roux’s reality, and in “The Mastermind” it “lurks just outside of our everyday perception, in the dark corners of the internet we never visit, the quiet ports where ships slip by in the night, the back room of the clinic down the street.” There is an inference and perhaps even a lesson here: Bad things happen when the edges of those two worlds start to touch.
Ratliff’s book emerged from several articles he wrote for the online magazine The Atavist. Three weeks after “The Mastermind” was published, a second book, Elaine Shannon’s HUNTING LEROUX (Morrow, .99), came out. Shannon, a journalist, has worked closely in the past with the Drug Enforcement Administration and she clearly had access to the two elite agents who helped take down Le Roux. But her book is less broadly sourced than Ratliff’s — and not as haunting.
A quick disclaimer: I, too, became obsessed with Le Roux after chasing him and his spectral story for The New York Times years ago. (In “The Mastermind,” the author briefly mentions the articles I wrote.) Much like Ratliff, I recall the bleary nights on Google thinking I’d struck gold when I stumbled across Le Roux’s name in incorporation papers for a mysterious firm in Hong Kong or a United Nations dossier on the Somalian arms trade. I also recall the nausea that gripped me when Le Roux slipped back into the shadows, and the gold I thought I’d found turned into mist.
All of which is to say that, 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 when, after years of living out of sight, Le Roux shows up, in the flesh, in two separate federal courtrooms.
[ Read this account of the drug lord’s testimony in one of his trials: “In a spellbinding two-day turn as a prosecution witness, Mr. Le Roux confessed to an astonishing array of crimes.” ]
Ratliff’s efforts fail only when he tries to lash his story to sweeping themes (Le Roux as the first great outlaw of the digital age) or to root it in current events (Le Roux’s supposed role in heightening the opioid crisis). While both of these ideas are likely true, they struck me as the sort of unnecessary stretches that a publishing executive might suggest.
The fact is, Ratliff’s tale is unique, so strange and so compelling, it is almost better left to float alone in its cloud of “adjacent reality.” That, of course, is where it already exists — close to, but just beyond, the world we recognize: out there, on its own, in a state of shimmering drift.B:
红叶高手联盟心水报【何】【哲】【瀚】【被】【带】【走】【的】【第】【十】【天】，【玫】【瑰】【庄】【园】【的】【每】【个】【人】【都】【很】【不】【快】【乐】，【仿】【佛】【一】【瞬】【间】【全】【世】【界】【失】【去】【了】【颜】【色】。 【不】【过】【好】【在】，【林】【萧】【萧】【的】【脸】【上】【逐】【渐】【有】【了】【血】【色】，【手】【术】【很】【成】【功】，【原】【本】【身】【体】【康】【健】【的】【她】【恢】【复】【地】【也】【比】【较】【快】。 【李】【漠】【又】【一】【次】【来】【到】【家】【中】，【还】【不】【等】【所】【有】【人】【问】【他】，【他】【摇】【了】【摇】【头】。 【大】【家】【沉】【默】，【林】【萧】【萧】【在】【嘴】【里】【一】【遍】【遍】【地】【重】【复】，“【哲】【瀚】，【他】【不】【会】【杀】【人】
【这】【是】【我】【第】【一】【本】【签】【约】【并】【且】【完】【结】【的】【书】，【然】【后】【也】【取】【得】【了】【我】【自】【认】【为】【比】【较】【好】【的】【成】【绩】。 【但】【是】，【因】【为】【我】【还】【是】【一】【个】【萌】【新】，【所】【以】【要】【学】**【地】【方】【还】【有】【很】【多】，【这】【本】【书】【的】【不】【好】【的】【地】【方】【请】【多】【多】【见】【量】。 【还】【有】【的】【就】【是】【主】【角】【了】，【我】【很】【喜】【欢】【女】【主】，【因】【为】【女】【主】【就】【是】【我】【梦】【想】【中】【的】【样】【子】，【我】【也】【想】【像】【她】【一】【样】【无】【敌】，【然】【后】【有】【很】【多】【马】【甲】，【然】【后】【就】【等】【着】【有】【一】【天】【可】【以】【惊】【呆】
“【哼】~【雕】【虫】【小】【技】！”【金】【麦】【王】【冷】【笑】【一】【声】，【浑】【身】【金】【光】【大】【作】。【瞬】【间】，【一】【个】【金】【色】【的】【蛋】【壳】【将】【他】【裹】【了】【起】【来】。 【火】【系】【的】【能】【力】【对】【于】【妖】【植】【一】【系】【的】【妖】【人】【来】【说】【比】【较】【讨】【厌】，【因】【为】【妖】【植】【天】【生】【就】【被】【火】【克】【制】！ 【如】【果】【是】【同】【等】【级】【交】【手】【的】【话】，【妖】【植】【一】【系】【的】【妖】【人】【相】【对】【就】【比】【较】【吃】【亏】。 【不】【过】【金】【麦】【王】【和】【楚】【望】【天】【可】【不】【是】【同】【等】【级】！ 【虽】【说】【都】【属】【于】【王】【级】【的】【强】【者】，【但】【王】红叶高手联盟心水报【因】【缘】【道】：“【就】【算】【你】【与】【所】【有】【人】【为】【敌】，【我】【也】【会】【站】【在】【你】【这】【边】，【但】【若】【你】【铸】【成】【大】【错】，【该】【受】【的】【罪】【还】【是】【要】【你】【自】【己】【受】。” “【所】【谓】【因】【果】【报】【应】，【种】【下】【什】【么】【因】，【造】【成】【什】【么】【果】，【都】【是】【需】【要】【你】【自】【己】【来】【偿】【还】。” 【少】【鵹】【听】【完】【这】【些】【话】，【没】【有】【被】【她】【吓】【住】。 【反】【而】【捂】【着】【唇】【笑】【了】【起】【来】，【笑】【声】【清】【越】【而】【魅】【惑】。 【因】【缘】【一】【脸】【莫】【名】【其】【妙】【的】【看】【着】【他】【笑】。 【男】【人】【伸】
【跟】【着】【马】【统】【的】【后】【面】【走】【走】【停】【停】【的】，【他】【不】【觉】【得】【累】，【祝】【霖】【都】【快】【觉】【得】【累】【了】。 【特】【别】【是】【看】【这】【他】【手】【里】【东】【西】【越】【来】【越】【多】【的】【时】【候】。【更】【加】【是】【想】【不】【明】【白】，【既】【然】【要】【买】【这】【么】【多】【东】【西】，【为】【什】【么】【不】【叫】【人】【一】【起】【来】【呢】？ 【跟】【着】【他】【走】【了】【几】【个】【巷】【子】，【祝】【霖】【觉】【得】【自】【己】【都】【快】【被】【转】【糊】【涂】【了】。 【还】【是】【说】【其】【实】【自】【己】【早】【就】【被】【发】【现】？ 【有】【了】【这】【个】【想】【法】，【祝】【霖】【干】【脆】，【打】【算】【直】【接】【过】
“【臭】【丫】【头】，【你】【快】【给】【我】【停】【下】【来】！”【一】【声】【暴】【喝】【响】【彻】**【上】【空】，【所】【有】【人】【都】【习】【以】【为】【常】【的】【朝】【那】【个】【方】【向】【看】【去】。 【果】【然】，【就】【见】【明】【艳】【张】【扬】【的】【年】【轻】【女】【子】，【追】【着】【一】【个】【俏】【皮】【可】【爱】【的】【小】【女】【孩】。【两】【人】【一】【个】【追】【一】【个】【赶】，【气】【氛】【倒】【是】【极】【其】【融】【洽】。 “【李】【笑】【笑】，【你】【听】【到】【了】【没】【有】？【我】【让】【你】【停】【下】【来】！”【被】【称】【作】【李】【笑】【笑】【的】【女】【孩】，【非】【但】【没】【有】【停】【下】【来】，【反】【而】【越】【来】【越】【快】，
【海】【山】【从】【台】【南】【消】【失】【后】，【马】【铠】【和】【石】【铁】【心】【双】【方】【休】【整】【了】【七】【天】，【台】【南】【江】【湖】【难】【得】【有】【了】【一】**【静】【日】【子】。 【阿】【松】【在】【华】【陀】【的】【全】【力】【医】【治】【下】，【也】【没】【有】【了】【生】【命】【危】【险】，【手】【脚】【被】【砍】【断】【的】【地】【方】【也】【基】【本】【接】【好】，【但】【身】【上】【却】【留】【下】【了】【无】【数】【的】【刀】【疤】。 【在】【表】【面】【的】【平】【静】【下】，【台】【南】【的】【江】【湖】【势】【力】【暗】【流】【涌】【动】。【黑】【白】【两】【道】【的】【人】【物】，【都】【在】【搜】【寻】【海】【山】。【因】【为】【马】【铠】【只】【有】【海】【山】【打】【劫】【他】【的】