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419: A Novel [Hardcover]

Will Ferguson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 27 2012

Winner of the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Amazon.ca Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

From internationally bestselling travel writer Will Ferguson, author of Happiness™ and Spanish Fly, comes a novel both epic in its sweep and intimate in its portrayal of human endurance. A car tumbles through darkness down a snowy ravine. A woman without a name walks out of a dust storm in sub-Saharan Africa. And in the seething heat of Lagos City, a criminal cartel scours the Internet, looking for victims.

Lives intersect. Worlds collide. And it all begins with a single email: “Dear Sir, I am the daughter of a Nigerian diplomat, and I need your help…

Will Ferguson takes readers deep into the labyrinth of lies that is 419, the world’s most insidious Internet scam.

When Laura Curtis, a lonely editor in a cold northern city, discovers that her father has died because of one such swindle, she sets out to track down—and corner—her father’s killer. It is a dangerous game she’s playing, however, and the stakes are higher than she can ever imagine. Woven into Laura’s journey is a mysterious woman from the African Sahel with scars etched into her skin and a young man who finds himself caught up in a web of violence and deceit.

And running through it, a dying father’s final words: “You, I love.


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Review

"This book shimmers. Tautly paced and vividly drawn, 419 captures the reader in a net of desire and deceit drawn tight by the interconnections of humanity in the twenty-first century." - Vincent Lam, author of Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

About the Author

Travel writer and novelist Will Ferguson is the author of several award-winning memoirs, including Beyond Belfast, about a 560-mile walk across Northern Ireland in the rain; Hitching Rides With Buddha, about an end-to-end journey across Japan by thumb; and most recently the humour collection Canadian Pie, which includes his travels from Yukon to PEI.

Ferguson's novels include Happiness™, a satire set in the world of self-help publishing, and Spanish Fly, a coming-of-age tale of con men and call girls set amid the jazz clubs of the Great Depression. His work, which has been published in more than twenty languages around the world, has been nominated for both an IMPAC Dublin Award and a Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and he is a three-time winner of the Leacock Medal.

www.willferguson.com


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dear Sir.... April 30 2012
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
When I think of Canadian author Will Ferguson, it is his travel memoirs that immediately spring to mind. That and his rich sense of humour (He has won The Leacock Medal for Humour numerous times.)

419 takes us in a completely different direction....

We've all received them. In fact Barrister Salvadore Gallarto sent me one this morning. Can I help him with repatriating 8.5 million euros? It's a simple matter really. I'm sure that every reader has had one of these land in our inbox. And we promptly trash them. But what if you didn't?

Laura Curtis is heartbroken when her elderly father Henry is killed in an auto accident. But on further investigation, it appears he deliberately left the road. Why would he do such a thing? Further digging by the local Calgary police on his computer uncovers the truth - he had become embroiled in a 419 scam...."I can help...." (419 is the Nigerian criminal code for "obtaining money or goods under false pretenses.)

On the other side of the world in Nigeria, we follow the story of Winston - a 419 scammer. And Amina - a young pregnant woman walking her way across the country, escaping from something. And Nnamdi, a young man from the depths of the Niger Delta.

In the beginning, I wondered how these disparate stories would tie together, but Ferguson deftly weaves an absolutely riveting plot. The criminal underbelly of Nigeria is presented in all of it's seediness. But really, it is the story of Nnamdi that captured me the most. His story is given the most page space and he is the character I felt I 'knew' the most. The effect of the oil industry on a country and its' people is disheartening. The death of her father changes Laura as well.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Will Ferguson may be known for works that feature humour and may otherwise be interpreted as lighthearted, maybe lightweight. 419 is none of these.

Starting with a "what if" scenario . . . What if someone actually responds to and tries to help one of these people in a Nigerian e-mail scam? From there we get a tour of both ends of the scenario in a well-researched, gripping read that incorporates its knowledge seamlessly into a well-constructed narrative. This is a book that will surprise you, teach you and make you think. It will make you sad.

But it gets us in touch with something that is real, that is part of the world we live in, and for that we can be grateful. And we can safely conclude that Will Ferguson is not only a humour writer, he is a simply a great writer.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Informative Oct. 4 2012
By jacksprat TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Everyone gets them. You know, those pesky spams with a Nigerian address promising you a good return if only you will allow funds to be deposited into your account. The spam speaks in terms of desperation and the urgent need to help someone in Nigeria unlock a family wealth. Will Fergusan takes us on the ride where someone (the sucker that is born every day) actually follows through with a response to the spam. He opens the book with a thrill ride and accident in Canada. It is the investigation of the accident that leads his family to travel to Nigeria. It is an opportunity for a look into the life of "normal" life in Nigeria and get into the down and dirty of corruption at many levels. What makes the 419 criminal? Theft can be theft of resources, theft of property, or the transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor.

The book is informative as a travelog to a place one would not normally thinks as a vacation hot spot. Nigeria is a poor country, rich in resources but poor in real management for the people. 419 refers to the Nigerian criminal code dealing with theft. I suspect Will Fergusan is referring to the Big Oil and the Nigerian government itself as the criminals. Everyone else is a victim. Great, easy read and recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Oct. 16 2012
Format:Hardcover
Mr. Ferguson, Thank you so much for this amazing book. I've read most of your others and was not at all sure what to expect of this one. I now know why you were nominated for a Giller....it is much deserved with this effort. Please more, sir! -a fellow Calgarian
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read Jan. 5 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author wrote about the problems with oil development in Nigeria and the way it affects the local population. This was in addition to the email scams that we hear so much about. I haven't read very many books that look at the problems in Nigeria (Little Bee being the only other one) so this was very interesting to me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story! Nov. 11 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Thoroughly good read, and very inventive plot! Highly entertaining, and as predicted, fast-paced! The pity I felt for the way the delta dwellers of Nigeria have been treated took me by surprise!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By sean s. TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Will Ferguson is a Canadian writer based in Calgary, who is best known for his works of humour and his travel writing. In his novel 419, he undertakes what is arguably a more ambitious task, and succeeds brilliantly.

419 opens with a winter car crash just outside Calgary. A cold evening in one of the coldest countries in the world. The story continues in the hot sands of Nigeria. In the past, it might have been said that this cannot be the same story.

But in fact, 419 is in many ways a meditation on the nature of globalization. The story traces the path of Laura, as she investigates the untimely and suspicious death of her father, an investigation that leads her to the opposite end of the world.

This is not the Disney version of globalization, `It's a small world after all', much less Coca-Cola's `I'd like to teach the world to sing.' It is the version of globalization in which Nigeria is just as connected to Calgary as it is to Africa - by oil, by money, by the Internet. And rather than a rising tide lifting all boats, it is a race to the bottom in which desperate people take desperate measures, and organized crime has global reach and deadly consequences.

419 follows the apparently disconnected paths of Laura, Winston, Amina and Nnambi, to reveal that they are in fact connected. In this the book may remind some readers of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's film Babel, especially since Ferguson is a master of description, and 419 has a very cinematographic feel to it.

Ferguson's keen powers of observation, honed in his travels around the world, serve him well, and 419 is an intriguing novel that builds to an enthralling conclusion. Recommended!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very good
Published 15 days ago by Paulette Fournier
4.0 out of 5 stars ... of the world no matter how much we would like to.
I can see why it won a prize and it gives a warning that we can not cure all the ills of the world no matter how much we would like to.
Published 20 days ago by DOROTHY CARMICHAEL
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Rather disappointing read. There didn't seem to be much of a plot, but rather a lot of colourful language that didn't lead anywhere...don't waste your time.
Published 1 month ago by Kara
2.0 out of 5 stars 419
I did not enjoy this book - found it very disturbing....I have friends who recommended it but it was too violent and
too many nasty characters.
Published 2 months ago by jacqueline farquhar
4.0 out of 5 stars great insight into 419
I truly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to family and friends. I receive many email messages from Nigeria and now know just how dangerous they can be. Thank you!
Published 3 months ago by Terry
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Awesome book. great writer. i bought this as a gift and it was well appreciated. Great job. kudos to ferguson. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ann
5.0 out of 5 stars 419 - compelling reading
Great sub-plots interwoven with timely and scary commentary on scamming - combined with scant (not nearly enough documented fact) historical information on the west's impact on... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Page Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars 419 book rating
The Novel is amazingly clean and new. There was nothing to say that it is used. Though I paid for used book but the book you sent is completely new. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Gbenga Ogunlana
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
sometimes a bit difficult to follow, but overall a good story line. gives you some to think about. I'd recommend this
Published 5 months ago by Suzanne Tawse
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Great read of a complex issue am still thinking about the books weeks after finishing. Those funny emails will never seem the same. Haunting.
Published 5 months ago by Jane L
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