The Loop

Drugs, ‘the Dark Web’ and contract killings: ‘American Kingpin’

I never quite understood what the “dark web” was. How do you get there? What happens there? Don’t the authorities know about it? I had all those questions answered by “American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road,” one of the most can’t-put-it-down books I’ve ever read.

The non-fiction account of the building (and government takedown) of the notorious Silk Road drug trafficking website (“The Amazon of drugs”) reads less like a non-fiction account and more like every season of “Breaking Bad” crammed into one 352-page book. (In fact, parallels are made to “Breaking Bad” more than once in “American Kingpin.”) This is a legit crime thriller, only all the details are real.

Author Nick Bilton went deep with research, gathering enough information to thoroughly go into detail on Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht and the various agencies working to identify him. It’s fascinating to read about college student Ulbricht’s transition to “Dread Pirate Roberts,” leader of a billion-dollar drug empire. And it’s interesting to be part of the thought process as the Silk Road opens itself up to weapons and human organ trafficking.

If you remember the Silk Road story playing out in the news, you’ll remember Ulbricht’s tiny mistakes are what eventually took him down. I didn’t really pay attention to the story at the time, so I went into each chapter not knowing how things were going to unfold. And I was excited to keep reading.

Highly recommended.