Theranos lab employees were under continuous observation - camera surveillance, email scrutiny, the works. Fake baritone voiced Elizabeth Holmes and her cruel boyfriend Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani held them tightly in mortal fear, pursuing the few who thought they could resign and rebuild their lives. No lab employee could be allowed to expose the fraud.
The multi-billion dollar secret at the time: Theranos was phony baloney; it had no device that could run all types of blood tests with just a drop of blood and then provide instant accurate test results. It didn't have anything to change the world. All those Theranos devices being used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan - pure fabrication. But nobody could prove it wasn't being done and besides, the board of directors included: George Shultz; James Mattis; Henry Kissinger; and many other famous heavy hitters.
The suspense built and built. Author and narrator were the perfect match, building strength as the book progressed. They made me feel the fear a Theranos lab technician who had to pretend miracles happened. One former lab director was driven to suicide, a mere pawn in this game. Former lab employees discovered the hard way they could run but not hide (those who tried to hide were found by Theranos investigators).
George Shultz's grandson was caught more than once trying flip his grandfather, and his family was made to spend an obscene amount (I think it was $400K) trying to defend against Theranos lawsuits. Legal bills were only part of the harassment. Holmes and her crew ruined people's reputations and careers.
Elizabeth Holmes remains a mystery. Carreyrou says she was an outstanding sales person. She relieved big money out of sophisticated investors - $150 million from the Walton family, $121 million from Rupurt Murdoch, $100 million from Betsy DeVos (her father-in-law was co-founder of Amway), $120 million from the Cox family that controls Cox Media Group, and so on.
Bad Blood shows how an apex con artist dupes important people by appealing to ego and greed. Jim Cramer said her company was changing healthcare the same way Amazon changed retail. President Clinton publicly asked her for advice on reducing inequality. She made the Time Magazine 100 List. She talked pure nonsense without interviewers being aware of it. Instead they probably saw a female Steve Jobs; we all wanted to see a female Steve Jobs. Although it tries, the book doesn't explain what Holmes said and did behind closed doors that captured sophisticated investors and government leaders. It's still a mystery. I keep thinking about it.
In retrospect, all those employees who lived in fear were never the target. Holmes targeted billionaires, and to a lesser extent, famous people with big egos. Holmes dealt with these people directly. She made them wait; she made sure her security detail was more numerous than theirs; she decided when the meeting was over; she put the pants on them and dipped them. How on earth did she pull it all off?
True crime is an exciting genre, and this book succeeds for two reasons: 1. The author was part of the story from the beginning, as he understood a crime was occurring and the villain worked at shutting him up. 2. The story was told from the perspective of lab employees living the nightmare of running from a monster that gives pursuit.
(Separately, I keep thinking about the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) Theranos used on employees, how they weaponized this basic legal contract. One can imagine why lab scientists and technicians signed since this was a condition of employment.)