Once you start to read 419 by Will Ferguson, you will find it almost impossible to put down. It is so well written and the characters so very believable, it's difficult to believe it is fiction. It is a story of intrigue and suspense, fraud and deception, and human relationships. A Giller Prize winner, it certainly is very deserving.
There are a number of seemingly unrelated story threads - a family in Calgary who have lost their father/husband in mysterious circumstances, a skilled 419 scammer in Nigeria, a young African woman who is walking from the north and a young man from the Nigerian Delta, both desperately trying to survive and find a better life. It is hard to imagine, at first, how they will all interconnect, but Ferguson skillfully weaves the parallel stories together. I could not turn the last 100 pages fast enough...
419 refers to the section of Nigeria's Criminal Code which deals with fraudulently obtaining money or goods.
Any kind of fraud, actually any sort of ruse or swindle.. Although you may not be familiar with the term "419", I bet you have seen more than one of these scams in your inbox. You know, the email that promises incredible wealth if you will just help the person claim the money, or get it out of the country, or whatever. The moral of the story is never, Never, NEVER reply to one of these emails. The scammer on the other end is slick and cunning, and before you know it you can be innocently sucked into this vortex of no return, scammed out of thousands of dollars. I was amazed at how they can "trawl" the internet to easily find out so much information on you or I or your Aunt Jean. Scary!
Of course Nigeria is not the only source of these Internet scams, but the Nigerian 419 scams are big business, and are heavily linked with more violent crimes: narcotics, kidnapping, and human trafficking, all of which are tied to the oil industry. The Nigerian Delta is home to one of the richest oil fields in the world, where militants and local warlords have declared war on the oil companies. "Oil, kidnappings and 419 fraud are Nigeria's three biggest growth industries, and they often overlap. The Niger Delta fuels Nigeria's economy."
419 is a fascinating story. A page turner. If you like rich and complex stories with unexpected plot twists and wonderful descriptive imagery, this book is for you. If you belong to a Book Club, suggest it to the group. I thank my friend Carole for suggesting it to me. 419 may well be my number one favourite book this year. Seriously. Read it!
"To encounter a fine book and have time to read it is a wonderful thing." ~ Natalie Goldberg