BB21C: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

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.

The book is over eight hundred pages in length and is a thriller throughout. The main character, Pilgrim, is attempting to lead a normal life but is dragged back into the murky world of his previous life after involving himself in a murder at the request of his policeman friend Ben Bradley. Pilgrim is a strong, intelligent and likeable man albeit a bit naive. Did he really think he could remain incognito for the rest of his life?

The book isn’t perfect by any means but what a debut. If, like me, you read for entertainment and escapism, then you will not be disappointed. Parts of the action are implausible and read a bit like a James Bond novel, but I wanted to know how Pilgrim would fare and whether he would survive. I cared for his character. The baddie, Saracen, is another plausible character with a very sad background. I could see the events which led up to his demise through his eyes, even though I didn’t approve of his actions.

The book manages to be both character- and plot-driven moving briskly from event to event. It is hard to keep up with what is happening but short chapters make it easier.

Terry Hayes was a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, covered the Watergate scandal and went on to be a screenwriter on such films as Mad Max. It is easy to imagine the book being translated for the big screen and I suspect that the author has written the book in the hope that it will be turned into a film script.

This is a modern spy novel very much of the twenty first century. It is riveting, fast-paced and everything a thriller should be.The writer frequently references website surfing, retinal scanners, music downloads and perhaps was a bit premature as I am sure none of these were around at the time the novel is set. There is a liberal use of artistic licence but this doesn’t take away the fact that this is a brilliant, brilliant book and a great read!

I have seen lots of criticism of this book from the style of writing and poor research but I defy anyone to write a first novel of this magnitude and quality. It is a cracking yarn if you don’t take it too seriously and just go along for the ride. I can’t wait for his next offering but it isn’t available until 2017.

Dorothy Flaxman
Personal 5
Group 4

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

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