A healthy 44-year-old man collapses while jogging in a posh London suburb and dies an "unexplained" death, per police, and of course there's more to this already intriguing-sounding story. Jeffrey E. Stern wades through the weeds of the mysterious 2012 death of Alexander Perepilichny for the Atlantic, detailing the Russian immigrant's evolution from DNA scientist, to computer coder and black-market distributor (a dangerous stint that proved extremely lucrative), to what he had hoped would eventually be a career as "an aboveboard entrepreneur" who wouldn't have to "hide from thugs behind his apartment door." And yet despite that yearning to apply his business acumen to growing a legitimate corporate empire, Perepilichny fell into what Stern deems a "perhaps … inevitable" world of "corruption and graft."
And that world ended up involving Russian crime syndicates, a slew of deaths under "mysterious circumstances," and a link to US investor and millionaire Bill Browder, who colluded with Vladimir Putin to manipulate stock prices in Russia and reap the profits. Browder also served as a "cheerleader" for Putin against his enemies—until he himself fell out of the Russian leader's graces and fled to the UK. The story relays how one man's death ended up tying Browder to the quiet, ambitious, Perepilichny, and how falling on the wrong side of the Kremlin (perhaps making "an enemy of Putin himself") may have been Perepilichny's unwitting undoing, complete with whispers of a highly structured assassination and an exotic toxic plant once wielded into weapons in a lab built by Lenin. (Try to unravel the Perepilichny mystery here, including why his wife may be saying he died of "sudden adult death syndrome.")