Review by David Steinberg

Terry Hayes’ novel “I Am Pilgrim” lives up to its description as thriller. Despite the fact it is more than 600 pages in length, it is a thrill ride.

It is a truly remarkable book because it is sharp in its pacing, crystalline in its prose, gripping in its suspense. And it possesses an extraordinary credibility in its plot: A secret agent comes out of retirement to try to stop a single mysterious Saudi-born terrorist (“Saracen”) using biological warfare to bring down the United States.

That is the essence of the story but it is built on  layers of intricate, intertwined subplots, sympathetic and reprehensible characters, and locales familiar (Lower Manhattan, Paris) and exotic (rural Afghanistan, Bodrum, Turkey).

The opening chapter introduce the agent, later nicknamed “Pilgrim,” at the scene of a death of a woman in New York City, her body’s identifying characteristics acid-burned. The agent hovers in the shadows of the crime scene. The crime is reintroduced much later in the book’s narrative when Pilgrim is trying to solve a seemingly unrelated death in Bodrum.

Pilgrim is a busy man. But he’s up to the task. He’s a heroic figure but a modest fellow.

I await the next thriller from Terry Hayes.

Addendum: In his acknowledgements, Hayes reveals the source of the idea for the novel, and Pilgrim references it in the book: A visit to a Nazi concentration camp where the author stared at a photo of a woman with her children on the way to the gas chamber.

The book was published by Emily Bestler Books/Atria, ($16)

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