Posted in Review

I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim is the 25th book I’ve read this year, and it’s the last one I’ll finish before the year is out, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better book to end the year on. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this book is incredible.

The book starts with a gruesome murder in a run down cheap hotel in New York city. The NYPD cop in charge of the cases calls in an acquaintance of his to have a look around and see if they can figure out anything about the murder and the circumstances surrounding it. Introduce our main character.

The main character doesn’t have one name, but many, so we shall call him Pilgrim. Pilgrim works for one of the highest American intelligence departments. He was chosen as a young man to work for them, and proves himself to be ruthless and incredibly talented at a young age, making a name for himself in the process.

When we meet him, he is just considering retirement, as the job is taking too much from him. However, just as he is getting comfortable and thinks he has hidden himself from anyone who may be looking for him, he is discovered by a NYPD cop with a skill for investigating people.

At the same time, far away in Saudi Arabia, a Muslim extremist is getting ready to launch a devastating attack on America. As a young man, he saw his father beheaded for a made-up charge, and he vowed to do whatever he had to do to take down the Saudi monarchy. With hatred for the Western world and the people who live immorally, he forms a plan that will cause death on a scale that hasn’t been seen for hundreds of years.

Under the guise of investigating the death of a young billionaire in Turkey, Pilgrim travels to a small city on the coast, working undercover to try and discover the link between the murder in a room in New York, a woman in Turkey making phone calls to the Hindu Kush, and a man they call the Saracen.

What he discovers is that all of these things are connected, and not in the way anybody originally thought. He must now try and use all of the facts that he has learned, and pull on all of his skills as an investigator and intelligence operative and with the help of some secret but highly experienced colleagues, find the Saracen before it is too late.

This is a book that could have gone so wrong – there are so many plots and characters and so much going on that it could easily have become confusing and stale. It’s a testament to the author’s skill as a writer that he keeps the twists coming, he keeps them believable, and the way he tells the story keeps you gripped and keen to find out how it plays out.

It’s also a book with a subject matter that is close enough to life today to be almost frightening – the events that unfold in the book are a bit too close for comfort, with tensions between America and Middle East a very real and dangerous problem. I think that’s partly what makes the book so engaging – it’s not too much of a stretch to believe that what you’re reading is actually happening.

Totalling 887 pages, this is not a quick read, and it’s certainly not a light read. This book is a commitment, it takes time to get through and it can’t be skimmed – this book demands your attention and it thoroughly deserves it. It is so well written, the characters are flawed and believable, the main character isn’t your typical muscle bound gun wielding hero, and there is no love story to nicely wrap up the ending. It’s gritty, it’s dark, and deeply satisfying.

This book is definitely one of my top five books of 2018 and I would recommend anybody who hasn’t read it, tries to pick it up and read it. Honestly, I’m jealous of anybody who is just beginning to read this.


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