Friday, 19 December 2014

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett, author of The Land Beyond Goodbye, Don’t Look Down and Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion. (

What We Thought: If you want a well-written, page-turning thriller, look no further than I am Pilgrim. This is a superior blockbuster doorstop of a novel in that it is intelligent and literate. At over 880 pages it seems at first to be a dauntingly long read but it isn’t. The pages fly by and midnight oil is liable to get burnt as you read just one more shortish chapter.

Two men are at the centre of this novel: the chaser, code name Pilgrim, and Saracen, the potential terrorist he’s chasing. Can the ultra-secret Secret Serviceman prevent the disaster about to be unleashed on America or will Saracen prove to be his nemesis? Both men seem superhuman at times, having knowledge and abilities far beyond the norm – but so do Sherlock Holmes, Jack Reacher and a hundred other crime-fighters/criminal masterminds, so that trope is a given.

However, I am Pilgrim delves into the lives of both men, following them through their earlier careers, showing us their family tragedies, their successes, their failures, and all the time building up to the moment when you just know they will meet. Though the novel is firmly on the side of the West, there is some depth to it and it’s hard not to sympathise just a little with the Saracen. Neither side is squeaky clean.

Another, possibly linked, story runs alongside the hunt for the Saracen – the murder of an unknown woman in New York. Pilgrim is involved in this one as well – in fact, he seems to be rather more involved than is good for him (another trope). A book on forensics he has written under a false name appears to be being used as a how-to manual for the perfect murder.

The two strands wind together in Bodrum, Turkey and though we know it must end well for Pilgrim (it’s a ‘Good’ vs Evil’ book after all and surely ‘Good’ must win) we are kept wondering just how this will be achieved until the final chapters.

I am Pilgrim is Terry Hayes’ first novel but he has a track record in writing film scripts. I can see this book being turned into a film very easily.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Homeland, Lee Child, plenty of background and build-up.

Avoid if you dislike: Western Imperialism, very long books, scenes of torture (though these are minimal).

Ideal accompaniments: Turkish coffee, the trill of a Ç???rtma.

Genre: Thriller

Available from Amazon.

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