I picked this one up based on its very good Cannonball Read reviews and because I needed a book of non-violent true crime for the 2019 Read Harder Challenge. This book did not disappoint. I admit, some how I had missed the entire Theranos story as is broke in 2016, so I can to this narrative entirely unspoiled. I was in for quite the narrative ride.
Bad Blood is the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the company she founded at 19 as a Stanford dropout, Theranos. Holmes intended to develop ways to accurately test blood from simple finger pricks with small amounts of blood as opposed to intravenous draws and provide miniaturized machinery that would allow patients the ability to test at home and away from the corporate lab giants. Instead Holmes perpetrated a 15 year ever evolving con that has seen federal fraud charges laid at her feet and other high-ranking members of her company.
John Carryrou broke the story following a tip in 2015 and spent the next year going toe to toe with Holmes and her legal team with the support of his employer, The Wall Street Journal. Following his coverage in the paper, Carreyrou then turned the saga into this book, carefully laying out each step in the saga of Theranos. This is Carreyrou’s first book, and while it is award winning, it also shows here and there his journalistic background – the chapters often have the feel of articles building one on the next. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t, the Theranos story goes from one mind-numbing bit of subterfuge to the next.
The story reads as so outrageous that I actually went and watched the HBO documentary The Inventor to see if it played out as nuts on screen… and while it does it just reiterated to me how well Carreyrou built the tension and how extensively he traced how the secrets and lies built on each other to lead to a truly unbelievable if it weren’t true story.