Review: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Posted August 14, 2013

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Genres: Crime, Thriller
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Can you commit the perfect crime?

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn't exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder - and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

When I first picked up I Am Pilgrim I hadn’t read any reviews, I wasn’t aware of the online buzz about the book or the chat on Simon Mayo’s R2 show. All I’d read was the blurb above. Actually now I’m glad I was oblivious to the chat, despite one’s best intentions it is possible to be influenced by reviews. I read this book without such influence, it was just me and Pilgrim.

This book is packed with detail. At first I wasn’t sure about where it was going, we were jumping about in time and space, but then I realised this was setting the scene. This is the background. I can tell you now that everything Hayes mentions is relevant. For every back story that is told, there is a reason. The detail in this novel is phenomenal, the story is incredible, you won’t be able to put it down!

How can a New York hotel room murder lead to the chase of Saracen, a man whose mission is to destroy the US? How can the events of 9/11 influence occurrences in Turkey? This book is clever, very clever. It opened my eyes to many things, opening my mind too. I can’t so much as watch a police show now without thinking about the crime scene, leaving a trail and the creation of legends!

There was one part of the book that really hit me emotionally. It bears relevance to the story but I’m not spoiling anything here when I tell you that the Hayes talks about a wheelchair user who was in one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 at the time the plane struck. This person rolled to the top of the escape stairs, high up in the building, got themselves into the evacuation chair and waited…waited for help.

Now whether or not this is fact or fiction it makes you think, there MUST have been people in those buildings who were wheelchair users. There must have been people who couldn’t leave those buildings without help, who faced the terrorist attack and waited for someone to help them. Now it’s not that I’ve never thought about the people in those buildings that day but this particular thought had never occurred to me. As a wheelchair user myself this thought really affected me. The fear of being unable to save yourself, of watching the world disintegrate around you and not being able to do anything about it.

While this particular incident might not have a great part to play in the book as a whole it’s something that will stay with me, and something that I appreciate Hayes bringing to my attention.

Sorry, that was a bit of an aside.

Hayes is an incredible writer. His intertwining of stories, lives and legends is flawless. The level of detail is fantastic and I love the way in which the details are revealed and you start to patch things together in your head. He gives us enough information to speculate what might just be happening / going to happen but just when I thought I had it figured BAM there was a twist. Maybe I’m just naive or gullible and fell into set traps but regardless I loved this about the book.

This is an extremely intelligent, creative thriller. I would go so far as to say it’s the best thriller I’ve ever read. I actually want to pick it up and read it again right now. You know when you watch a thriller film and get to the end, everything is revealed and you rewatch it to see everything slot into place? That’s how I feel about I Am Pilgrim. It deserves to be read again, for the full depth of the storytelling to be appreciated, for bits I overlooked to come to light, to see the canvas that is the final story patched together.

Some may be intimidated by the thickness of the book, but don’t be. Every page is worth it! All the hype about the book is true, it’s brilliant! I am just desperate for my friends and family to read I Am Pilgrim so we can discuss it!

Thank you to Transworld Books for providing me with an electronic version of the book via NetGalley for my consideration.