It all begins with a simple email: "Dear Sir, I am the son of an exiled Nigerian diplomat, and I need your help…"
When Laura Curtis' father gets caught up in this con, he ends up losing his money, his home and his life. Determined to take revenge on father's killer, Laura sets off dangerous world of the Lagos underworld and into the heart of the 419 industry. But she soon discovers that this scam reaches much further than she thought. A pregnant young woman who appears out of a sandstorm in sub-Saharan Africa, a young man whose village has fallen prey to the destruction of the oil industry, these lives and more are all connected to Laura's through one of the worlds most notorious email scams.
419, by Will Ferguson, is a fast-paced, sweeping novel that takes you into a world full of crime, suffering, greed, revenge and redemption. The 419 email scams (named for the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud) are well known throughout the world and have become an industry in Nigeria. This books takes you inside a world you know of, but couldn't possibly understand the scope of. We often find ourselves wondering who could possibly fall victim to one of these scams but this book shows just how the goodness of human nature can easily be taken advantage of.
Ferguson masterfully weaves the stories of many people together into one book, jumps from person to person but consistently keeps the book flowing straight through to the end. I have to admit that there were points where I thought "okay, where is this going," but when it got to that point, I was impressed with skillful writing that brought me there.
Ferguson has obviously done his research. The 419 world is highly intricate and through it all he manages to put a human face to these people, to make them understandable and even make the reader sympathetic to their plight. This book doesn't just cover the 419 scams, it looks at the effects the oil industry has had on Nigeria, it's economy and the its citizens. It examines what can happen a country gives its young people an opportunity for education but little opportunity to put that education to work.
My favourite part of this book was when Laura travelled to Nigeria to get revenge. In the beginning, I really questioned her strength and character but she turned out to be a fantastic and funny heroine. I couldn't help but smile and cheer as she worked her revenge on the man who swindled her father.
Will Ferguson is a fantastic writer and I am such a fan of his earlier humour writing, especially Happiness and How to Be a Canadian. I barely had to look at the blurb on this book to decide whether or not to read it, his name on the cover is enough for me. But when I did find out that this book differs from the previous works of his I have read, I strongly questioned whether or not a book of this genre would be any good. Well, I never should have doubted him. This is an incredible novel and it proves that Ferguson is a talented writer of any genre.
I received this book courtesy of Penguin Canada. The opinions expressed above are purely my own.