Saturday, 17 March 2012
419 by Will Ferguson
Who is Laura? She is the surviving daughter of Henry Curtis, who has fallen victim to an online scam originating in Nigeria. It appears that he has been duped into sending all of his life savings, including the re-mortgaging of his family home, to help procure the release of some 'fraudulently' withheld funds. I've had dozens of these emails land in my inbox asking me to please help. For some reason, Henry didn't press 'delete'. He tried to help. This help ended up with him dead on the opening page of the novel.
Author Will Ferguson doesn't just tell the story from the survivors' points of view, but also looks into the rational of the scammers. How is it that healthy young, educated people spend their time defrauding strangers when they are quite capable of finding legitimate employment. He then goes one step further and introduces the problems associated with the oil industry in Nigeria and how it has affected the health and livelihoods of huge segments of it's population. This all wraps together and leads to a very dramatic resolution to Laura's quest for revenge.
I was very much looking forward to Laura getting revenge on the 419'ers(419 is the section of the criminal code in Nigeria that deals with obtaining money or goods under false pretenses), but then Mr. Ferguson introduced the 'mafia' type influence on the scammers and I found myself questioning what I thought I knew. These young men, mostly the scammers in the story are men, are in turn the victims of other scammers. Where does this end and how high up into law enforcement do their bribes and corruption reach. Is resistance futile, will we all inevitably fall victims to one scam or another. How far will our greed carry us.
This book kept me eagerly reading, wanting to know how Laura would avenge her father's death. I enjoyed almost the entire book, the exception being Laura's final act once she had returned to her 'post-scam' life.
I would have enjoyed the entire book much more had I stopped reading at chapter 120 and left the final chapter un-read.
Thanks to Penguin Canada for use of the cover image and for my review copy.