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4.1 out of 5 stars138
4.1 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon May 16, 2013
I would never have finished this book if, while looking for a summary, I hadn’t come across a review in the “Globe and Mail.” T.F. Rigelhof writes that from page 187 on, the book becomes “riveting and provocative.” This is when the character Nnamdi is introduced, a Nigerian of Ijaw decent whose home on the delta has been polluted by oil. The book begins in Canada with Laura’s father committing suicide after having lost his house and money in a 419 scam. Mr. Ferguson devotes far too many pages to explanations of the process, which, I believe is fairly familiar to us all. Then we're introduced to Amina, the pregnant girl, who conveniently comes from the interior of Nigeria so that Mr. Ferguson can provide us with lengthy descriptions of the landscape and markets and truck stops. In Lagos live the 419 scammers, Winston, the upstart responsible for initially hooking Laura’s dad to the sting and Ironsi-Egobi, the mafia leader known for his tuberculosis type cough who bullies Winston's "enterprise" away from his. The descriptions of characters and settings (perhaps a reflection of Mr. Ferguson's travel writing experience) would definitely have benefited from extensive editing. As well, he might have reconsidered his ending. Despite the depressing Nigerian setting, the writing is generally light and upbeat which is a Godsend when you’re skimming the first 186 pages. Though, at the end, he turns the thriller narrative on its head to provide an allegorical ending. “419” is a good book that could have been a whole lot better.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 11, 2013
At times this story made me angry, it made me frustrated and it even had me wiping away a few tears. One great plot point had me jumping out of my chair and pumping my fist in the air while I yelled out encouragement to Laura, one of the driving forces of the story.

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.
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on May 12, 2013
Wow, what a level of research and fact-finding it must have taken to put this book together. I will never again look at emails and surveys in the same light. Read this book as a novel and it is very good. Read it as a primer on internet skulduggery and it shines through as an education. I enjoyed both aspects and the prizes received are well merited.
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on November 18, 2013
When I first heard of Will Ferguson's book 419, I was intrigued and looking forward to reading it. All-in-all, it didn't disappoint.

Anyone who has ever been online is sure to have received an email promising huge sums of money for helping move millions of dollars around the world - and not just from Nigeria. What is the world coming to when crooks have become so lazy that they can no longer be bothered to stick a gun in your ribs in some dark alley!

The Nigerian scams are so patently laughable that it's hard to believe anyone would fall for them. But, unfortunately, they do. As does Laura's father in the opening chapters of 419...

A highly recommended read.

419
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on December 11, 2013
I was reluctant to start this at first but once I got into the book was thoroughly fascinated. Having lived in Calgary, it was a real treat to say "I know where that location is'... and given that I have relatives living in the tower at the North Hill Shopping Center - was even more so. I found the subject to be completely interesting, the book was very well written and definitely kept my attention which had me asking questions all the time - eventually they were answered. Given the concern for climate change, protection of the environment, the suffering of so many peoples in under developed countries, this covered so many areas of concern besides the scam artists. I can't wait until this comes out in a movie.
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on December 3, 2012
This is a story about Internet fraud and while I know this does happen I found it a bit 'over the top' at some points. The story of Nigeria however, is very interesting which tended to put my feelings of the over dramatic parts in the background.
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on May 2, 2013
I really really enjoyed this book. It's told in 4 parts, and I like this style when authors use it, providing the author is able to bring everything together in the end, and the story while reading continues to keep you reading. The story beginning with an overturned car is interesting and we are introduced to a family ordinary like any other family. From there the story just takes off in many directions, and draws you in, and keeps going deeper and deeper in mystery and drama. Having tried to read this authors previous book Spanish Fly, and NOT enjoying it, this book 419 totally redeems this author for me. I choose it due to it winning the Giller award for year 2012, and will definitely read his next.
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on February 6, 2013
I found this book disapointing. I was looking forward to it , having lived for years in Lagos, but could not connect with it in the way I expected. Has some of the flavour if Nigeria but could have a lot more
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The Canadian humourist and high-adventure novelist Will Ferguson has written a gripping tale about a Canadian elderly man who gets caught up in the Nigerian 419 e-mail scam and the efforts of his daughter to recover his money. The reader is introduced to the complex and seamy world of consumer fraud in a way that literally boggles the imagination. While we might be able to appreciate the extent of the victim's credulity in signing over his and his wife's life savings to fraudsters, unseen and thousands of miles away, the extent to which this elaborate con is hatched and sprung is hard to fathom as to who the perpetrators are. To uncover that mystery, Ferguson has the daughter engaged in some major personal sleuthing, involving the Internet, to bring the thieves to justice. As the story shows, this is no small feat. Much of what Laura accomplishes to right a terrible wrong is done with the grudging help of the police and friends. There are stretches in the story where the description of this personal detective work seems to be cut short. Suddenly there is Laura in the middle of the Niger delta, courting extreme danger but with a fool-proof plan to confront the scammers. Such gaps are excusable because Ferguson is anxiously trying to get his character from Alberta to Nigeria through an international maze of corruption and ineptitude. What really made this novel worth the read was Ferguson's efforts to present another side to the big hunt for the bad boys. Interlarded with Laura's high-powered adventure is a running account of how a young man (Nmandi) and his extended family eke out an impoverished life amidst the oil platforms of the Delta. It is in this crime-infested environment that the 419 scam thrives in an attempt to get money to move up the social ladder and get out of this hell-hole. Being able to bring these two important threads together is the main strength of this book. Laura learns to truly see her need for justice through the eyes of those who have succeeded in ripping her and her family off. What she discovers is that con artists are not limited to Africa and a 419 scam.
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on February 6, 2013
This is a well written book that takes you behind the scenes of the Nigerian diplomat type scam we've all at least heard about, even if you've not been a recipient of one of those attempts at extortion. It also uncovers a side of Africa that is relevant in today's oil hungry world and of her citizens who try to eke out a living from a decimated landscape. The characters are well rounded though one's back story still remains a mystery to me, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in fiction.
I'd highly recommend this one!
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