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I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes Review

I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes Review

i-am-pilgrim-coverReleased: May 2014

We open with the most typical and ubiquitous of scenes in the crime thriller genre: a woman murdered in a dingy, urban New York hotel, and a maverick investigator called in to solve the mystery. What follows, however, is far more intriguing and worthy of your attention.

Crossing international borders and religious divides, I am Pilgrim’s protagonist winds his way across the globe, catching criminals, targeting terrorists and delving right into the thick of international espionage. The complex web of elements at play here is difficult to unravel without revealing a few twists and secrets, but it turns out that there’s more to the case of the opening pages than first thought, as it ties into events with ramifications that will affect not just those involved, but everyone on a global scale. Just like many, if not all, of the characters you meet on Pilgrim’s pages, this book has more to offer than you would first assume.

As with a lot of serial killer books and investigative masterminds in pop culture these days, the impressive protagonist at the heart of Terry Haye’s novel is perhaps too proficient at his job. An investigator with the highest credentials and the murkiest past, a man with no name yet many names, a mind that can tell what happened at a crime scene just by spotting a speck of misplaced dust or an awry stack of magazines. Sounds like clichéd drivel, but Hayes makes this type of protagonist work, despite knowing that no one can be that good a detective, unless you’re a British icon from Baker Street. Having one individual solve a global crisis by using their sharp intellect and deadly skills is a trope that’s existed for a long time. Just look at James Bond, Jack Bauer or, everyone’s favourite, Batman. These characters, on solo missions to eliminate threats and save the world, have been born or experienced resurgences in pop culture over the past decade. This book taps into that cultural trend in a major way, particularly by how the story links directly into the very event that started the idea of this modern action hero in the western imagination: 9/11.

The intrigue here is that our hero, let’s call him Pilgrim now, can’t solve the initial murder – despite spotting all the evidence, he can’t tie it all together. We’ve been set up with a master crime solver who has come up against the impossible. Like Bond, Bauer and Batman, our guy must overcome the odds to defeat the bad guys, but time is running out.

Perhaps an even more contemporary spin in this tale though, is the villain(s) of the piece. We may read about some monstrous things done by despicable people, but there is no snarling devil or moustache-twirling fiend controlling events. Despite the larger-than-life situations, the motivations are all incredibly human.

This is not a heavy, political book, but simply an engaging, fun and adrenaline-fuelled read. Even chapters that seem more like info-dumps than plot progression are exciting to read. If you enjoyed watching the latest Bond movie, then this book’s for you. A well-structured and riveting thriller; this is a masterful example of the detective, conspiracy and catastrophe genre – a noir spy game.

The only thing to suffer through with this book is the sense, sometimes, of incredulity. Have you ever seen the bomb scene in Galaxy Quest? That explains pretty well the feeling you can get from reading this. But that’s a minor issue for a story that is so well plotted and absorbing. One of the only books in recent memory that kept me hooked beginning to end – even taking five minute breaks through necessity became a nuisance. I am Pilgrim is entertaining, ambitious, fun and nail-bitingly suspenseful. Funnily enough, it also makes for a great summer read, despite its dark nature.


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