Will Ferguson takes readers deep into the labyrinth of lies that is "419," the world’s most insidious Internet scam.
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…"
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."
Ferguson's African epic, which won Canada's Scotiabank Giller prize in 2012, details the linked lives of four individuals, three African and one Canadian, drawn together by Nigeria's bloody, exploited history. Laura seeks justice for her murdered father; amoral Winston chases wealth at any cost; Nnamdi and Amina seek only honest employment and a chance to raise Amina's child. Greed contends with generosity and vengeance with forgiveness in a world where the bad prosper and acts of charity are harshly punished. Despite the terrible events of the book, the author leaves room for hope of a better tomorrow. White North Americans grappling with the matter of Africa' is an often fraught affair, bright white teeth contrasted with chocolate skin, where tides of causeless violence wash across the hopeless continent and exoticized, sexualized natives exist solely to provide a supporting cast for white protagonists. Ferguson avoids many of the pitfalls of this genre; every terrible action has a motivation, Nigeria's present calamities have a historical and international context. Most importantly, Winston, Nnamdi and Amina do not exist merely to cast an edifying light on Laura, but, as she belatedly comes to appreciate, have inner lives, goals and ambitions of their own. Ferguson provides a template for novels about Africa other Western authors would do well to contemplate.