“This astonishing debut espionage thriller depicts the collision course between two geniuses, one a tortured hero and one a determined terrorist, in a breakneck story reminiscent of John le Carré and Robert Ludlum at their finest.
PILGRIM is the code name for a world class and legendary secret agent. His adversary is a man known only to the reader as the Saracen. As a young boy, the Saracen barely sees his dissident father beheaded in a Saudi Arabian public square. But the event marks him for life and creates a burning desire to destroy the special relationship between the US and the Kingdom. Everything in the Saracen’s life from this moment forward will be in service to jihad.
At the novel’s opening, we find ourselves in a seedy hotel near Ground Zero. A woman lies face down in a pool of acid, features melted off her face, teeth missing, fingerprints gone. The room has been sprayed down with DNA-eradicating antiseptic spray. All the techniques are pulled directly from Pilgrim’s book, a cult classic of forensic science written under a pen name.
In offering the NYPD some casual assistance with the case, Pilgrim gets pulled back into the intelligence underground. What follows is a thriller that jockeys between astonishingly detailed character study and breakneck globetrotting. The author shifts effortlessly from Pilgrim’s hidden life of leisure in Paris to the Saracen’s squalid warrior life in Afghanistan, from the hallways of an exclusive Swiss bank to the laboratories of a nefarious biotech facility in Syria.
The inevitable encounter between Pilgrim and the Saracen will come in Turkey, around the murder of a wealthy American, in a thrilling, twisting, beautifully orchestrated finale.”
Thoughts: The beauty of I Am Pilgrim is that it never relies on red herrings, plot twists, or sleights of hand to misdirect a reader. Instead, it is an old-fashioned detective novel in which a reader gets all of the clues, which they can either try to reorganize and solve the puzzle or wait for Pilgrim to reveal the answers. Either way, the story is highly enjoyable. It is an extremely clever and intense plot with incredible pacing and fully-developed characters. The glimpses into the shadow world of secret agents are chilling but effective, making it easy for readers to reconcile the fact that the world should not know about certain government actions. In addition, the writing is spectacular. Hayes manages to make both Pilgrim and Saracen sympathetic figures, neither condemning them for their actions nor entirely excusing them. In this new world of terrorism and religious extremists, Hayes highlights how blurred the lines become between good and evil and how everyone is a victim. I Am Pilgrim is a fantastic read and needs to be on everyone’s summer must-read list.