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Bad Blood by John Carreyrou - Review

Monday, February 20, 2023

So this was my friend Ceri's choice for our book club in February. She works in tech and has a background in health, so actually this book was right up her street. I read the blurb and thought, well, okay, I'll give it a go. I wasn't thrilled by the prospect of it, but then I started reading it... 

I have heard of Elizabeth Holmes, but only because I knew she had just been convicted of something and was sentenced to a long stretch behind bars. Other than that I just knew nothing about her, so went into this totally blind. I didn't realise her conviction was related to the company she started up, which is documented in this book. I opened her Wikipedia page when I had just started this book and was shocked to find that she is only a couple of weeks younger than me! But then I shut the page because I didn't want to spoil myself for the book. Now I've finished it I'm reading things about her and I want to watch the miniseries that was made about her. 

So basically Holmes said that she had developed a blood testing system that could test for a whole battery of problems in patients using just a few drops of blood from a finger prick test, as opposed to a vial of blood drawn from a vein (eg in your elbow). She wanted to develop tiny devices that would do this that people could keep in their houses, she was obsessed with them being small like the sizes of iPods. She managed to secure millions and millions of dollars in investments for this, and she had people on her board like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz. But within the company, there were scientists and engineers and software developers who were worried about the technology and the overselling that Elizabeth was doing. She ruled the company with an iron fist and her much older boyfriend Sonny regularly fired people with no warning. Ex staff would be made to sign iron clad non disclosure agreements. 

But eventually people blew the whistle, and John got a tip off and started investigating. He wrote a blistering piece about the company. Elizabeth retaliated with legal stuff. And so on, until the company finally collapsed and Elizabeth was charged with fraud. It seemed to me throughout the whole thing that she never had an actual product to sell. She managed to sell something that sort of worked but was a warped version of something else. Lee, my partner, is a software developer and I kept reading things out to him because I understand a little bit about testing etc just from his job, and Theranos just did none of that. It is utterly bonkers. There's so many little bits where it's just boggling, and then there's the fact that she managed to get Walgreens and Safeway to buy into her scam, all the while that her data didn't stack up and she had bad results on her blood tests etc. 

I was compelled to keep reading and I can't wait to see what everyone else thought. I am giving this five out of five, I really found it fascinating! 

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