Thu, 10 May 2018
Pilgrim is the pseudonym for a top American secret agent who has to all intents and purposes ‘died’. His legacy is a book, which details his escapades and, perhaps foolishly, explains how to carry out certain deeds, such as the perfect murder.
When he realises his cover has been blown, ‘Pilgrim’ is unnerved, but the task ahead of him is even more shocking as a seemingly random murder leads him back into the world of international terrorism.
I am Pilgrim is a swashbuckling adventure for the 21st century. It has been described as ‘Dan Brownesque’, which is understandable on one level because it is one man pitted against an evil foe, and getting into, and more especially getting out of, all sorts of unlikely scrapes.
The comparison does Terry Hayes a bit of a disservice, however, as his style of writing is somewhat better than Mr Brown and the basic premise of his story is also more believable. If you haven’t read The Da Vinci Code I won’t spoil it for you, but the big reveal takes a huge leap of imagination.
Our hero, John Pilgrim, is also more likely able to cope with the villainous world he is thrown back in to. That’s not to say there are not some moments of gargantuan coincidences, unlikely discoveries and quite frankly ludicrous fights between one man and a gang, which in the style of James Bond he manages to come out of, I wouldn’t say unscathed but able to carry on.
One of the reasons this book works is because our hero is believable, as is the New York cop, another unsung hero, who unmasks him and acts as his Lewis, Watson, Robin – take whichever sidekick you like.
Unusually, we are also given an insight into the motivation of the villain of the piece who wants to carry out the highly-effective and very scary mass destruction of the US. This is post 9/11 warfare at its best and Hayes ramps up the tension as the two protagonists play a game of cat and mouse.
The eventual climax is exhausting and certain elements of it are truly shocking. Indeed, If you are of a squeamish disposition there may be some parts of the book you might want to gloss over, but every one of its 900 pages contributes to the overall effect and makes for a cracking read.
If Mr Pilgrim should find himself drawn into another adventure, I will be going along for ride.
And watch out for the inevitable film...