419: A Novel

Kobo eBook available

read instantly on your Kobo or tablet.

buy the ebook now

419: A Novel

by Will Ferguson

Penguin Group Canada | March 27, 2012 | Hardcover

419: A Novel is rated 3.7727 out of 5 by 22.

From internationally bestselling travel writer Will Ferguson, author of HappinessT 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."

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 416 pages, 9.4 × 6.45 × 1.25 in

Published: March 27, 2012

Publisher: Penguin Group Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0670064718

ISBN - 13: 9780670064717

Found in: Fiction and Literature

save 37%

  • In stock online

$21.12  ea

Online Price

$32.00 List Price

or, Used from $5.04

eGift this item

Give this item in the form of an eGift Card.

+ what is this?

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Check store inventory (prices may vary)

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Stays with you When I started this book, I did not think I was going to like it, but as I got further into it, I had trouble putting it down. I absolutely enjoyed it. Maybe because it is such a reality today. Ironically right after I finished the book,on the Dr Phil show there was a family with their Mom who got involved with a man and he conned her out of her life savings (over$320,000). as well as a Mercedes, a Jaguar and another vehicle. She was on the verge of going to meet him. Had her plane ticket bought. The program went so far as to find the actual gentleman who was the man in the pic that the con man was using as being him. Dr. Phil used the ladies phone to call this man and of course it was no longer in service. It took a lot to get het to believe that she had been conned. After reading the book you can totally understand why. And to what lengths they go to. I find myself thinking about the book frequently. Like I can not get it out of my mind. Even when reading another book!! So yes I totally enjoyed it... I would definitely recommend it.
Date published: 2014-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Giller Prize Winner! This Giller Prize winner deserved the win, in my opinion. Initially it seemed as though the book was four separate stories. Then slowly Ferguson wove the edges together. Four became three, three became two and finally all were blended seamlessly into one compelling tale. Have you ever received this type of e-mail? "Dear Sir, I am the daughter of a Nigerian diplomat, and I need your help..." What would happen if you didn't hit the "delete" button? This type of fraud is known as "419" after the section in the Nigerian Criminal Code that makes fraud illegal. The book follows the story of Laura - a Canadian editor whose father has died under mysterious circumstances after answering one of these e-mails. There is a young woman wandering through the Sahara desert. There is Winston - a scammer who spends his days "working" the individuals who respond to his e-mails. Nnamdi is a young man from the Delta who comes to Lagos to be a mechanic. Throughout the book their stories start to entwine and we see how the lives of these four separate individuals join together. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it.
Date published: 2014-07-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Summer Read I loved this book. It swept me away to Nigeria…it tore at my heartstrings…it made me question how far people in all countries will go to survive and what they are capable of doing when it comes to justifying the deceiving of others. Will Ferguson is a brilliant writer. He tells a story and I couldn’t turn away. I was fascinated with Nigeria…the landscape, the people, the traditions.
Date published: 2013-08-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from story somewhat disjoint Laura's father is killed in an car accident which is later deemed to be a suicide. Her father has responded to one of the e-mails offering a monetary reward for transferring funds out of impoverished Nigeria. It seems he was pullled further and further into this scam and eventually used all his funds including mortgaging the house. Laura is a sad and lonely copy editor who wonders just how her Dad got pulled in and sets out to find out what exactly happened. She is the perfect person to avenge his death as she can spot the nuances and spelling mistakes and other mistakes and find the exact person who conned her Dad. A secondary story is about Amina who travels south in Nigeria from the Sahel to seek a better life for herself and her unborn child, another about Nnamdi who travels north out of the Niger Delta because the oil companies have destroyed his way of life and he wishes to do better and then there is Winston the perpetrator of the e-mails and the schemes and people behind them. I felt the story was very disjoint at times and at times bordered on boring. I felt Amina was an extraneous ho-hum character maybe a little more character development would have helped. We, in the western world do not realize the destruction caused by these oil companies and their total lack of compassion and caring for the indigenous people.
Date published: 2013-08-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 419 by Will Ferguson 419 is a captivating suspense novel that is unique because of the several viewpoints and characters. The author introduces these characters slowly and descriptively, some not developing until later in the story but all important to the plot. Some readers may find jumping back and forth between settings and characters confusing. My advice is to just keep reading (sung in Dory voice) everything comes together. Something I admire most about this story is the descriptions of the cities in Africa. It takes a talented writer to completely transport a reader into another world and have them understand it, Ferguson managed this with ease. After reading this novel I feel like I know exactly what Nigeria is all about. The setting was just as important as the characters, being immersed in the different culture made the story. The foreshadowing spread throughout the chapters really helps the build of anticipation, as well as the phrase ‘something is coming’ repeated by several characters. 419 isn’t the type of fiction to read if you want to get lost in la la land, it shows a harsh reality. I’ll give it a 4.5 OUT OF 5 because although I thought it was brilliant, it still didn’t make the favourite list. Check out more book reviews at http://insubstanial.blogspot.ca/
Date published: 2013-07-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Are you 419ing Me? Well-written, excellent idea and decent enough characters. I really didn't feel much connection to Laura, but I did really like Nnamdi's character and eventually Amina's. i enjoyed the parts of the novel with Nnamadi and Joe as their banter was comedic and a good portrayal of friendship in a novel where no character seemed to have friends at all. The interesting part of 419 is the concept of 419 itself - "Section 419 of the Criminal Code:Obtaining Goods Through False Pretenses". I've never really understood internet scams and this novel gives you a glimpse into that world and how the scammers reel their victims in hook, line and sinker. I give it a 3 out of 5 because I wasn't overly thrilled by the ending.
Date published: 2013-06-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth The Read When I first read the synopsis for this book I thought to myself that I must read it as it sounded like a great premise. I read some of the reviews and I would have to agree with most of them. Overall this is a great book that I would recommend... but with a couple of caveats. First off the branching story line can get a little distracting. It makes sense in the overall story but some characters are given a rather lengthy introduction in the middle of the novel and it takes a long time before it becomes clear why they are important or if I should care about them. This may have been worth it if the back stories really added to the overall plot but I didn't feel they did. I feel we are led to believe some of these characters play a much larger role then they really do. At times I felt like the author was simply using these characters to show us how much research he did about Nigeria. This makes it a slog to get through some parts of the book. I found the first third and the last third of the book fantastic and couldn't put it down, the middle third however moved a little slow with a lot of environmental description and not a lot of story progression. Bouncing back and forth between the characters I found myself wishing that we spent more time with some then others… unfortunately it seemed to be the reverse of what I wanted. The good news is that the effort it took to get through the middle was worth it. I found the end very satisfying and really enjoyed how it was wrapped up. Over all I would recommend the book to everyone however be aware that you may hit a wall in the middle of the book. I felt as if it could have been 100 pages shorter, but urge you to keep going as it pays off in the end.
Date published: 2013-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thrilling I could not put this book down. At times I was a little confused with what was happening, but sooner or later everything ended up making sense. It opens your eyes to a real world of criminals, victims and the power of technology.
Date published: 2013-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping and Suspenseful 419 by Will Ferguson, winner of the 2012 Scotia Giller Prize, is worthy of the attention its getting. A gripping and suspenseful novel with a large cast of fascinating characters, 419 is beautifully and skilfully written. The threads of the plot and the characters are so disparate that the reader wonders how the author can possibly manage to bring them all together, but the writing is so good that the reader is confident that Ferguson will. In the hands of a lesser writer, the plot could seem contrived, but never does … just tragic in so many ways. Nearly everyone becomes a victim of self-delusion, from the Canadian man scammed by a 419er from Nigeria to the 419er himself. The characters themselves are wonderfully drawn, by turns sympathetic, frustrating, pathetic. We're discussing this novel in our women's book group in about a month and I'm looking forward to the discussion.
Date published: 2013-05-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Could have been better A very interesting book – an “inside” look at the Nigerian scams. However, it would have been much improved if at least 50 pages in the middle of the book – dealing with Nigerian travels and Nigerian village life – had been removed. The heroine’s survival was unrealistic.
Date published: 2013-05-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Litte Confusing but Overall A Great Book I found this book a little confusing at times, but overall it was a very interesting read. I liked the way the author tied all those people's lives into one story. Excellent story writing and well deserving of it's award!
Date published: 2013-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Giller Prize Book The problem with prize-winning novels is, we can’t read them without thinking, “Would I have given this a prize?” We can’t read them without comparing them with the other contenders and second-guessing the work of the judges. 419 received the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize—a rather big deal here in Canada. No matter what people think about this book, with a Giller Prize win Will Ferguson won’t have any trouble signing book contracts for future projects. Is he deserving? I think so. 419 begins with the stories of four very different, seemingly unconnected, people: Laura, a copy editor living in Calgary; Winston, a Nigerian internet scammer; Amina, a pregnant Muslim woman travelling through Nigeria alone to flee a mysterious threat; and Nnamdi, a boy from the Nigerian Delta who leaves his village to work for American oil interests. As savvy readers, we know they will inevitably connect, but Ferguson unfolds the story carefully, so we must keep reading to see how these disparate threads intertwine. Even when the inevitable meeting happens, we can’t predict the final outcome, so we must keep reading to see what transpires. I wouldn’t call it a page-turner, but I would call it compelling. 419 is the section in the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with obtaining money through fraudulent means—internet email scams, for example. A significant portion of this book is set in Nigeria, and Ferguson does an outstanding job (Dare I say prize-winning?) of portraying Nigeria with harsh truths but respect and love. While reading, I thought repeatedly, “A Canadian wrote this?” How could a writer not born, raised and steeped in Nigerian culture capture it with such sensory precision? When reading Ferguson’s description of a car trip through Lagos, I could almost see, hear, smell the African city. Ferguson wrote some beautiful phrases that I stopped and savoured. “She had outwalked her own dialect . . .” “Wealth produced garbage as surely as food produced f*ces.” The book didn’t resolve itself in the way I would have wished, but it did resolve in a way that was true to the story. So, what are the flaws? Perhaps the subject? Most North Americans have armed themselves with spam filters and skepticism enough to avoid falling prey to schemes like those portrayed in the book. I didn’t read it from an “If I’m not careful, this could happen to me” perspective, but more a “This is what used to happen to people” point of view. I had to read this book because it won the Giller Prize. I tried to set its prize-winning status aside when reading. Was it deserving? I think so. But you should definitely give the other shortlisted books a try, too.
Date published: 2013-04-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Indulges itself, but delivers. I have read Will Ferguson as a humor and travel writer, but this is my first encounter with his fiction. 419 is a fantastic book for the most part, smart, and very much the work of a writer who is indulging himself in his craft. Set 1/3 in Calgary--with unabashed references to that city's geography and culture--the rest of 419 takes place in Nigeria. It paints an often-bleak but impressively-researched portrait of that country, attempting to avoid anything as cliché as the African sob story (though this is unavoidable at times). His Nigerians are, mostly, very real people living in a distressing world where Western enterprises have led to pollution and corruption, but have given birth to Nigerian enterprises as well, many of them corrupt themselves, such as the titular money scheme. As one of the characters tells us, "It's always about the money." The separate stories spin independently for so long that I was honestly surprised when they started to connect. This would be my only complaint, that the second section, where two critical Nigerian characters are developed for some time without almost any reference to the characters established in the first section, does go on for a bit,.But this is a writer taking his time, as I said, and I feel it pays off in the end. He takes the time to create humans before putting the pieces together in a series of Dickensian (but acceptable) moves. A modern thriller, but a thriller you believe. The white-knuckle last hundred pages work so well because they are so plausible, you can easily see yourself in this place, this risk. Who hasn't seen a spam email asking for help and wondered however briefly if, perhaps just this once, this is for real.
Date published: 2013-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must Read Anyone who uses the internet should be required to read this book. It clearly demonstrates the reasons behind the frauds and the reasons they work.
Date published: 2013-01-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Twisting tales that come to fruition in Nigeria What happens when one gets caught up in the con game, the email that is known worldwide. In Nigeria, it refers to the law (419) where one cons someone out of something. Twisting stories whereby you meet a Canadian family and their tragedy that has just occured. But there is more... two different people in Africa are about to meet and see how all their lives are entangled like the Nigerian jungles. Admittedly, the ending is not what you think
Date published: 2013-01-23
Rated out of 5 by from Great read about the world of Nigerian scam artists, with the plot alternating between Africa and Canada. Four separate stories blending into one.
Date published: 2013-01-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing When I hear of a book having won the Giller Prize, I expect what would be a good (if not great) read. Unfortunately, this is the second time around that i've picked up a Giller Prize winner and have been left disappointed. I found it difficult to follow the story because of the way the author chose to present it. It constantly goes back and forth between the main characters (Laura & company), the '419' scam artists in Lagos, and perhaps the most puzzling part of the book a story of a lone starving woman wandering sub-Saharan Africa which even through a good third of the way through the book has absolutely no connection to the main story. Way too much time is spent on this character (the lone wandering African woman); it completely detracts from the main story and bogs it completely down to the point that it's hard to stay interested in the book at all. I've since had to stop reading about halfway through. I personally don't recommend the book, but to each their own.
Date published: 2013-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better than I expected I was rolling my eyes through some of this book - who would fall for an internet scam? But the walking pregnant woman kept me reading. The story of Nnamdi I found to be extremely interesting, needless to say the end of the book caused me some grief with his death. The one thing that I did not like about this book was Laura's ending - I was rooting for her, she did it! Then all of a sudden she's pulled into a scam just like her dad? She's given everything away all in one succinct paragraph...I doubt after all she'd been through this would happen. Other than that very interesting and enjoyable read.
Date published: 2013-01-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from HOLY COW - GET SPELL CHECK!! I really enjoyed this book overall, but found the spelling errors completely distracting. It is expected to see the odd one in a book, but the general use of an apostrophe barely exists in this one. Hed instead of He'd ... Shed instead of She'd .... Fm instead of I'm ... etc. etc. Once you get past that, the story is very good. I found many of the details of the travels through the water excessive and was left wondering how the characters in the USA were going connect with some of those in Nigeria. The story leans heavily to one side and seems somewhat repetitive in parts. A good read, but not as good as expected with all of the ratings you see.
Date published: 2013-01-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not what I expected Intrigued by the 419 internet scams, I was eager to read about this growing Nigerian "business" through the fictitious story of Laura, a lonely misfit trying to find the thieves that left her father bankrupt. The description of the barren landscapes and bustling cities were vivid and fascinating however too much time was spent in the deserts and oil filled marshes of the African Delta. I enjoyed Laura's story but the rest of book, though interesing, was not as entertaining.
Date published: 2012-12-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing Tale on Human Greed 419 is the latest offering by Calgary author Will Ferguson. While better known for his travelogues and humorous writing, this book demonstrates Ferguson's aplomb at writing political thrillers. 419 is a captivating read, hitting the sweet spot between a book you can't put down while pausing just long enough to explore bigger themes. 419 is a book that excels at weaving multiple dimensions around a single event. It opens with an apparent suicide by a Calgary man, Henry, and it is quickly revealed that he had lost a significant amount of money in one of the infamous Nigerian internet scams (referred to in the Nigerian penal code as 419, hence the title of the book). This scam is explored from multiple perspectives - including the daughter of the deceased man, the Nigerian man who perpetrates the scam, and the crime boss whose gang runs the internet scammers. Through the book's most compelling character, Nnamdi, we learn the back-story of the wealth, ethnic strife, and greed created by exploitation of Niger Delta oil wealth that literally fuels these interconnections. The strength of this book lies in the detail with which Ferguson infuses the world he creates. His talents as a travel writer are on full display - the histories, landscapes, colours, sounds, and dialects of different regions in Nigeria are richly described without bogging down the accelerating plot. By contrast, the characters - while compelling - sometimes appear not quite fully developed, almost as in a fable or proverb. While this helps to clarify some of the book's main themes and decision points, it also leads to a few actions that don't quite seem credible without further elaboration. Nevertheless, this was a highly enjoyable read that teaches a lot about contemporary Nigerian society and conflict. It also gives some valuable insights into what fuels human greed and the devastating, often far-reaching consequences it has on people's lives.
Date published: 2012-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dear Sir.... 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. She becomes single minded, after years of staying safely within the confines of the small world she has created. She decides to go to Nigeria and find the man responsible for her father's death. I didn't feel I really got to know Laura and found her sudden about face to be a bit of a stretch. 419 is many things - a mystery, a thriller and a social commentary. I turned the final page with a sense of sadness. Varying degrees, but for most of the characters. Ferguson's tale of the story behind one of these schemes brings a very human face to what most see as a simple nuisance entry handled by a quick tap on the delete button. An unusual, introspective and recommended read.
Date published: 2012-04-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Revenge is Bittersweet 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.
Date published: 2012-03-18

– More About This Product –

419: A Novel

by Will Ferguson

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 416 pages, 9.4 × 6.45 × 1.25 in

Published: March 27, 2012

Publisher: Penguin Group Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0670064718

ISBN - 13: 9780670064717

From the Publisher

From internationally bestselling travel writer Will Ferguson, author of HappinessT 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."

About the Author

Will Ferguson is the award-winning author of Happiness™, Beyond Belfast, and Canadian Pie. He lives in Calgary with his wife and their two sons.

Editorial Reviews

"419 is more than a drugstore-rack police procedural: It''s a deeply ironic, thoroughly engaged politico-philosophical thriller from a comic writer best known for winning a trio of Leacock Awards.. you won''t sleep until you finish, and then rest won''t come easily. Riveting. Provocative." - The Globe and Mail
Item not added

This item is not available to order at this time.

See used copies from 00.00
  • My Gift List
  • My Wish List
  • Shopping Cart