Bad Blood by John Carryou

Read July 2019
Recommended for fans of exposés
★   ★    ★   

Lessons learned:

  1. Elizabeth Holmes speaks in an unusually deep voice.
  2. What matters is who you know. If you look good and have the right connections, you can get millions of dollars for your imaginary device, particularly if you model it on the iPhone and dress like Steve Jobs.
  3. Even very rich people can be stupid with money.
  4. Sometimes the people that aren’t stupid are only supporting you for the money.

Rather outside my normal genres of mystery, sci-fi and fantasy, Bad Blood intrigued me both because of its medical focus and because I heard it was a particularly well-done story. Although I will once again offer up a more appropriate title: Bad Blood Tech, because the blood itself here is perfectly fine. Absolutely normal, in fact. Perfectly healthy blood that’s put into a nefarious machine, sold by a flim-flam operator of the highest level.

The storytelling is very straight-forward, generally devoid of literary flourishes and with only minor asides. In fact, at times the writing seems simplistic. On reflection, I think Carreyrou had to keep his sentences as factual as possible, knowing that Holmes’ lawyers would go over every word looking to dispute it. As such, it reads quickly. Until, that is, you you develop Toxic Exposure Syndrome, the experience of immersing yourself in the world of unrepentant and awful people. I found I had to take a break, and once stopped, was reluctant to pick it up. I solved my little dilemma by reading backwards, and was relieved to discover that the narrative eventually switches from the meteoric ‘rise’ of Thantos to the development of the Wall Street Journal‘s expose. That’s when the crazy took an actively evil direction with Thantos harassing former employees, potential sources and anyone who might speak to Carreyrou about Thantos.

What surprised me the most about this story is how many people Elizabeth Holmes was able to convince to part with their money. Sure, it seems she genuinely believed in her product and its potential. But the goal was a product used to test blood for diagnostic purposes. Even the most simple nurse (cough-cough) could tell you that there’s certification involved. This isn’t a Kickstarter for your new book, or a new design for luggage, or even an up-and-coming app that will tell you if the concert you are at will burst your eardrums (this is a thing). Tests almost always have to be run past the FDA. But basically, thanks to an impressive amount of seed money through family connections, she was able to keep her pyramid scam going by finding new people and just enough opportunities to parlay small successes into looking like big ones. Until they turned to outright lies.

I do have to thank Carreyrou, though. We were sitting around work in the break room the other day, in our fifteen by fifteen space shared by roughly twenty people a shift, and someone was commiserating on how awful our jobs were right now. “Well,” I said, “at least we have our souls.”

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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