It has been quite a while since I have written about a Giller Prize shortlist book (you can read part i and part ii if you missed it) because I was about halfway through reading 419 by Will Ferguson when the book won the prize and the demand to borrow it from the library skyrocketed! My loan time ran out and when I put a new hold on the book the wait list was somewhere in the 2000s! It took me about three months to get my hands on it again, but luckily I remembered most of the story and was able to pick up where I left off.
The title of the book comes from the Nigerian Criminal Code, the number corresponding to a section dealing with fraud, and this 419 scam becomes the common point between four intertwined stories. This novel reminded me quite a bit of Dan Choan’s Await Your Reply, as both track seemingly separate stories the connections of which are only revealed towards the end, and both (to a degree) deal with very modern scams made possible by the internet.
419 is a very well written book full of vivid descriptions interlaced with a complicated “who dunnit” story which makes for a very easy and fast read. I also really appreciated that there was never very clear black and white divisions, the “good” and the “bad” often fall into the grey zone where knowing motivations makes it difficult to judge actions.
A captivating, very well-researched, and interesting read. Highly recommend!