The Bottom Line: This epic spy thriller begins as an urban murder mystery, but quickly sprawls into a globetrotting manhunt with the highest possible stakes. You won’t be able to put it down.
When I am Pilgrim opens, we find Terry Hayes’ super spy investigating the gruesome murder of a young woman in a run-down hotel. All identifying characteristics are dissolved by acid, and there are a number of perplexing clues, including a criminal textbook authored by Ben Bradley (aka Pilgrim). In a scene that is perhaps intentionally disorienting, Pilgrim is a highly observant and seasoned investigator, and yet something is amiss that we can’t quite put our finger on. Later, we learn that this isn’t his world at all. Pilgrim, it seems, isn’t really a homicide detective.
Like many contemporary thriller writers, Hayes loves to play with time and space. The plot is constantly moving backwards and forwards in time, as well as in location. By the time we figure out exactly who Ben Bradley is, we’re also acquainted to a variety of locations and an ensemble cast of characters.
The backing of an old mirror contains the ghostly image of a murderer. A father is beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square. A Syrian biotech expert is found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard. Smoldering human remains are found on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan.
I am Pilgrim is a puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle. But fear not – Terry Hayes’ brilliant and mysterious loner will link them all in his pursuit to fend off an appalling bio-attack.