Book Review: I Am Pilgrim

An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid. A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan. A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity. One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey. 

Ashley | In I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, the narrator, a retired super secret US intelligence agent known to us eventually as Pilgrim, has written the perfect book under the guise of a deceased FBI agent. The book exposes secrets from his cases, is praised by everyone in all sectors of his field and eventually used to commit the perfect murder.

But that book and the perfect murder are a small piece in a very large puzzle, a puzzle that takes you on a man hunt across many countries and through many different aliases, and deals with anti-terrorism in both the fictional and real post 9-11 world.

Things are pretty heavy from the get go. It took a bit of determination to push through the first few chapters as characters were developed and scenes that didn’t seem to have anything to do with anything were taking place. But that’s the beauty of Hayes’ work, and of the narrator’s work, being able to bring together all these different strings into one massive ball that despite the chaos, somehow makes sense, laying it out perfectly for the rest of us.

In a way, I Am Pilgrim feels like life imitating art; it’s hard to believe that the complexities Hayes layers into his novel is written by anyone other than a retired super secret US intelligence agent writing under the guise of an author and screenwriter named Terry Hayes.

He has mastered the art of stringing you along through a series of cleverly placed teasers that hint to unveiling the mystery, but without giving away too much. You want to keep reading, to see how this comes into play in the overall story, but he only sprinkles enough information to ignite that curiosity, not enough to give even the most cleverest of readers sight into what is coming.

It’s clear Hayes has a strong screenwriting background. The book reads like a movie plays. The action scenes are so detailed and descriptive. But so much more is poured into this book, so much more than a movie could ever fully depict. Even at a massive 600 pages for a thriller, it doesn’t seem that dragged out and doesn’t rush through the important parts.

In the book, Pilgrim comes out of retirement and does some of his best work, ultimately saving the world. It can be argued that with I Am Pilgrim, Hayes has already done some of his best work, so let’s hope he actively stays on the grid and continues to do so.

I Am Pilgrim will be available May 27.