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Nonfiction Review: American Kingpin by Nick Bilton

Title: American Kingpin: the Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road
Author: Nick Bilton
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 337
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (TX, CA), Dominica, Australia, UK

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the Silk Road, a web site where anyone could trade anything--drugs, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons--without begin traced. The federal government began an epic manhunt for the site's elusive kingpin, with no leads or witnesses. All they knew was that he called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts.

The Silk Road quickly took off, and Ross embraced his new role. He enlisted a crew of loyal allies and took increasingly drastic steps to protect himself--including ordering a hit on a former employee. As he made plans to disappear forever, the Feds raced against the clock to catch a man they weren't sure even existed.

Drawing on extensive access to key players and the two billion words and images that Ross left behind, Nick Bilton offers a tale filled with twists and turns, lucky breaks and unbelievable close calls. It might be dismissed as too outrageous for fiction--but it's all too real.

Review: I normally wouldn't pick up this book, but the person who bought my car from me a few months ago highly recommended it and I realized it was written by the same author who wrote Hatching Twitter, which I thought was really interesting. So, stuck in the house with a fever and sore throat this weekend, and knowing it's Nonfiction November, I set to work reading this book. And, it's super interesting! It's like a really good Netflix series, but it's real.

Ross is super smart and wants to make a difference. He is also a Libertarian who feels the government takes too much. The solution? The Silk Road on the Dark Web. And he does it so well. Within a year or so the site is worth over a billion dollars. Yes, with a "B." As I read I kept thinking about how scary it would be to run this site or work with him. Who do you trust? How do you know you aren't being stalked by federal agents, etc. I guess you don't since he got caught... eventually.

And let's talk about those federal agents. There were so many from various federal agencies, all working on the case, but not sharing information, all wanting the glory of catching the Kingpin. Many of the agents turned out to be just as crooked as Ross and his employees. Once they had access to his site they began stealing from him and giving him advice about how to evade the feds. What a crazy world.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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