Book Review – I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes


As is a usual occurrence for me, I bought this book on a whim and mainly because an author I like had been quoted as saying that it was worth a read. Intrigued, I purchased a copy of I Am Pilgrim. The first thing that surprised me was just how big the book is. Coming in at a whopping 892 pages, this book is a mammoth undertaking should you choose to read it.

But is it worth spending so many hours on such a long book? Well, that would depend on whether stories about terrorism, espionage and good old fashioned police work are your cup of tea. This book is a mystery, shrouded in another mystery, and then another, and another…..

The synopsis on the rear of the book hardly gives much away either. I’ll admit that, when I began reading the book, I had little or no idea what I would find in the subsequent pages. All I had to go on was an extremely vague synopsis on the back cover, the only other clue being the orange circle at the bottom left of the front cover telling me the book was, ‘The only thriller you’ll need to read this year.’

But was it worth such praise or were the billboards promoting a book that was actually a dud?

Well, for once, I’ve found a book that does actually live up to its hype.

I Am Pilgrim begins in a cheap motel in New York and the discovery of a woman’s body decomposing in a bath full of acid. The book subsequently takes you on a tour of some of the most alluring and indeed some of the most terrifying places on earth. What begins as a number of seemingly unconnected events soon turns into a wildly weaving story of espionage, corruption, double agents, terrorism and one man who is single-handedly given the task of trying to avert a biological holocaust.

A word of warning: this book is not for those of a delicate disposition. As you would expect in a crime thriller, there are murders and dead bodies aplenty littered throughout the story and the manner in which their deaths are covered by the author lives little to the imagination, leaving the reader with some rather unappetising mental images. Many of the deaths are brutal and gory, yet despite the circumstances of such events, none of these scenes come across as being unrealistic.

As you would expect from a title which focuses on terrorism and espionage, there is a certain amount of the book dedicated to the unsavoury topic of torture and its use to rip vital information from helpless victims. Such scenes might make some readers uncomfortable, yet when the protagonist speaks of his own experiences of being complicit in the torture of an ‘enemy’, you never once get the feeling that he took any sense of enjoyment from it.

This brings me to another element of the book that I enjoyed: the fact that the book’s protagonist is somewhat of a reluctant hero. He’s damaged in ways that he cannot express, let alone understand, he’s a loner despite the fact that he has the admiration and affection of many of the people whose lives he touched. He takes no joy in killing anyone – even if it is necessary to save countless innocent people. The lying, cheating, deception and underhand tactics – you get the impression that he hates every aspect of his profession.

I Am Pilgrim is told from the point of view of one man yet encapsulates the stories of so many other interesting and engaging characters. We are shown why the story’s antagonist is so driven in his mission and almost feel a certain sense of sympathy and understanding for him – the most frightening aspect of his personality is that he comes across as completely normal, yet he’s playing a game of bluff and counter bluff of his own with the book’s central character.

I Am Pilgrim is a book about many things, yet one theme seems to run through its core. Above all else, this book is about the power of love and how it can be both your greatest strength and your biggest weakness. No matter where we go, what we do or the people we meet, all of us (in one form or another) are driven by love, it influences every thought, every action, every choice we make.

This is a book definitely worth reading. Get your hands on a copy of it. Now.


Filed under Book reviews

5 responses to “Book Review – I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

  1. Fantastic review, Heather! I’ve been anticipating your review of this book since you first told me you were reading it. I’ve gone back and forth on whether to purchase (since I only have like… um… a thousand books to be read in my Kindle queue already), but decided I would wait for your review.

    Okay, you got me! I’m definitely going to purchase this one. I like just the sort of elements you described in the book – and nothing is more delicious to me than a nice long book I can lose myself in.

    Now, where’s my coffee? Time to settle in and do some reading! 🙂

    Think this is one they might be able to make a movie of – or is it too complex?

    • The movie rights have already been purchased by one of the major studios so expect the movie in the next couple of years. I only hope that they’ll do the book justice.

      It’s an excellent boo and one that you won’t regret purchasing 🙂

  2. Interesting perspective, I wish I saw the book through your eyes. I actually found it to be very bland and shallow. Never at any point did I feel it gripped me. It was interesting but not the thriller it’s meant to be and I was expecting. Have you read Gone Girl? Now that book I found a thrill to read!

  3. Reblogged this on Odyssey of a Novice Writer and commented:

    I know Heather. When she says a book is worth investigating, I pay attention. So, here I am… on Christmas vacation, looking forward to a good read. What do I have in my hands? Something so terrifying, so mystifying, so engulfing, I don’t know what to say. So I’ll say this: Read Heather’s review. Then buy the book. And remember: the monsters who haunt us are NOT necessarily under your bed. They may be people you will never have the chance to meet in person but who can dramatically change your life. I AM PILGRIM – great read. Trust me. Now go get the book!

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