Saturday, September 21, 2019

419 by Will Ferguson ~ Book Review

When Laura Curtis's father dies unexpectedly in a single vehicle car crash the family is devastated.  But inconsistencies start showing up in the investigation and the insurance company rules it a suicide and won't pay out.  Upon further investigation her father's emails show correspondence with a young man in Nigeria asking for her father's help to transfer funds for a young woman they name as Miss Sandra.  What on earth would possess her father to email back to one of these scams?As Laura starts to dig through the emails the anger and helplessness at the ability of the police to do nothing fuels her rage until she decides to try and take matters into her own hands.  But what she finds as she tries to avenge her father's death is way more involved than a single young man in a Lagos, Nigeria internet cafe trying to scam a single person and it may cost Laura everything, including her life.

I picked this book up not really knowing what 419 meant but it refers to those email scams we all used to know the one's that start out with "Dear Sir, I am the daughter of a Nigerian diplomat, and I need your help..." or something similar.  Most people hit the delete button as quick as they open them but there were also lots of people taken in by them and were taken for everything they had.  The 419 internet scam is named after the Nigerian criminal code that covers fraud.  The author has taken great pains in this book to research the 419 scams and how they operate.  From young men, educated but unable to find work, to corrupt oil companies ravaging the Nigerian land and it's people leaving them in desperate situations, to crime cartels running these scams, this book is very multi-layered and eye opening not only to the scam but to the sad situation in Nigeria.  The story is built around 3 main characters:  Laura from Canada, Winston who is trying to run a scam from Nigeria and an unnamed young women trekking across the dessert obviously trying to escape from something.  The author weaves their stories back and forth  and eventually brings these lives together.  I was really drawn into Laura's story. From her introverted bookish lifestyle she takes on a whole other persona when the anger at how and why her father died takes over.  And though I was drawn to her and her bravado I wonder how realistic her taking on the individual author of the emails and unknowingly the Nigerian crime cartel really would be.  But I guess it was a way to show how quickly individuals, both those who perpetrate the scam and those who get taken, would quickly be caught up and in way over their heads with no way out.  The story was tense and eye opening.  It is not a happy or cheerful pick me up type of story but one more to bring awareness, I think.  I did find myself skimming some parts, however, when it came to the unnamed young woman.  Her part in the story didn't quite come together for me and was a bit of a distraction and sometimes a confusing addition from the rest of what was going on.  For me it was worth the read just for the immense amount of research into how these scams operate and gave me a bit of compassion for the everyday people of Nigeria and what went on there and how these underground crime cartels rose up with such ferocity there, though the understanding did not excuse their forays into brutal crime in my mind.  Given with a warning for one secondary character's constant F-bombs in his language if you are sensitive to that.

I gave this read a 7.5 out of 10

1 comment:

Faith said...

Great review. A book i will probably pass on.