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I am Pilgrim
Terry Hayes

Atria Books
May 27, 2014/ ISBN 9781439177723
Thriller / Espionage

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


With the book, I am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes has expanded his writing resume. Besides being the screenwriter of movies such as “MadMax2,” “Dead Calm,” and “Payback From Hell,” he is now a novelist. I am Pilgrim is both a crime and an espionage story that is part mystery and part thriller. It is the first in a series of three books.

Hayes embarked on this adventure to write an epic espionage story a la the science fiction series, Lord of the Rings. Readers should enjoy how he intertwines pop culture into the storyline. But, the plot in a grander scale, is a warning of the dangers of bio-terrorism, which would make the tragedy of 9/11 look small in comparison. He also goes into great detail, maybe a little too much detail, when exploring the backstory of the antagonist and protagonist considering the book is over six-hundred pages.

Hayes noted, “I wrote a large backstory to bond the reader to the character. There will be less of this in future books, although I do like big epic and complicated stories.”

The backstory tells of the Pilgrim’s early life, affected by being the adopted son of a wealthy family. Having always been a loner he fits in perfectly to the job as a covert US government agent, becoming a man who seems not to exist. After an assignment in Russia, he retires anonymously. Pilgrim writes a book, under a pseudonym, about the forensic background to the perfect crime. Not able to live in blissful retirement, he is called back to duty to find a terrorist, the Saracen, who threatens to cause a catastrophic disaster. Hayes intertwines the motivations, reactions, and emotions of Pilgrim and his enemy rival.

In the Saracen’s backstory his father, a native Saudi Arabian, is beheaded by the monarchy for speaking badly against the kingdom. He seeks revenge against Saudi Arabia by planning a massive terrorist attack against the US, the Saudi’s evil ally. He becomes a ruthless terrorist who wants to inflict pain and tragedy upon Americans.

The plot begins with the NYPD investigating the perfect murder. Throughout the book this “who done it” mystery is intertwined with the espionage thriller scenes. Pilgrim must beat the time clock knowing his actions and plans need to be cleverer then the enemy he is pursuing. He must utilize all his wits, intelligence, and experience to win the mental battle with this devious enemy. The action includes the many different settings of the US, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey. This roller coaster ride of places takes the reader on an incredible journey into the world of espionage.

The author commented, “I have been to most of the settings in the book except Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. I really hope people think about some of the issues of the world we live in. Specifically the rise of extremist people and the dangers they can impose with thesenew technologies. Think how dangerous it is to have all this information hemorrhaged on the Internet. This is the double edge sword of freedom. I showed this through the quote in my book, ‘He said he’d learned that when millions of people, a whole political system, countless numbers of citizens who believed in God, said they were going to kill you-just listen to them.’ Just as with the Nazis in the past, today no one is listening to the Islamic world that are telling us they want to kill us. People have this propensity to get on with their lives so they don’t listen. I wanted to show that people have not listened in the past so why would they listen now.”

I am Pilgrim is an all too realistic tale of the dangers the next generation of terrorists can catastrophically impose. The well-developed characters and the non-stop action combine to produce a page-turning unpredictable read.
Reviewed 2014