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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

My Darling Davis, How real is your Love?

Reviewed: December 1, 2009
By: T.G. Diamond
Publisher: self-published through Xlibris
502 pages, $23.99

Tess, the central character of “T.G. Diamond’s” book, is a woman desperate for romance and stability. When we meet her she’s in the midst of a live-in relationship of sorts with a man who seems to have intimacy issues of his own. After six months of this unsatisfactory arrangement she and her daughter move out and get their own place.

Tess, still looking for love, signs on with one of those online dating/matching services that advertise so heavily on late night television. E-Harmony introduces her to Davis, who seems for a time to be the man of her dreams.

Between that August and the next January Tess finds herself caught up in an internet con job that costs her $20,000 dollars, vast amounts of time and energy, emotional turmoil, worry and embarrassment.

In form this scam is not wildly different than one that someone tried to play on a friend of mine a few months ago. In her case, someone who had stolen the identify of a friend of hers claimed to be travelling and in financial difficulty.

What’s different about Tess’s predicament is that the front end of the con involves building a relationship of trust and dependency for many weeks before slipping in the requests for financial aid. In Tess’s case, this also involved allowing money to be laundered through her bank and credit card accounts.

This is an epistolary novel in that it takes the form of an exchange of emails between Tess, Davis and some other shady characters over a period of many months. Every so often Tess interrupts the flow of the exchanges to tell us what she was doing at the time and, later in the book, to tell us what she did when she realized she was being conned.

These emails are based on events that actually happened in “T.G. Diamond’s” life, and are, as you might expect, not exactly stirring examples of prose. Emails seldom are. Some of Davis’ messages seem so obvious that you will want to reach out and give Tess a shake. In fact, it took me longer to read this book than it should have because I would reach points where I would be angry with both the con man and his mark and I would have to set it aside for a few days.

In addition, some of Tess’s messages to Davis are so explicit in their emotional and intimate detail that I felt quite squeamish reading them.

About two-thirds of the way through the book Tess begins to wake up, realizes she has been had, and begins to play a long distance game of cat and mouse with her Davis. I’m not entirely clear on what she hoped to accomplish by this. She had done enough research and received enough advice from the Mounties by this time to know that these people are very seldom caught.

Textbook analyses of these kinds of relationships indicate that the mark is often trapped in a kind of emotional addiction that blinds them to the falseness of it all and makes them want to continue. Tess admits that she was reluctant to let go of the fantasy even after she knew that it was one.

Davis, who claimed to be from Whitehorse originally, but mostly corresponded with her from Africa, was most likely in some North American city, hunched over a computer, snagging a dozen or so other marks in his electronic net while editing a cookbook full of email messages so that they would seem to be tailored to each of his victims.

At one point I was told by authorities that a lot of the Nigerian style fraud schemes were really being run out of Calgary, but they could actually be from anywhere.

Indeed, as indicated by both the text and Tess’s reactions, Davis was probably more than one person. As the story builds he becomes inconsistent in his style, modes of address and use of details.

Wikipedia contains a outline of a typical romance scam:

“The scammer, who is supposedly local to the mark, mysteriously appears stranded in a foreign country (sometimes London, England, to remove suspicion that would be aroused if they were in Nigeria or Ghana). They can't return to their home even if you offer to pay their airfare and they have a huge (unreasonably huge) check coming that they need to deposit in the mark's bank account in Canada and then have the mark wire them the money. Scammer ‘admits’ to having a local bank account in mark's area but doesn't want mark's help to deposit check there which would be the logical solution. If mark refuses to budge scammer will go somewhere else, if not then there are ‘complications’ that require more money.”

In Tess’s case, it appears that Davis actually becomes ill, is hospitalized and will supposedly die unless she can help. Such are the emotional extremes to which these con artists are prepared to go to snare their victims.

In the end Tess lets that happen and Davis vanishes from her life. In a final chapter, called “Lessons Learned” there’s a lot of useful information about who to contact if you feel you have become a victim of identity theft or a similar scam.

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