Book Review: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim: What it is about

From the publishers: “Can you commit the perfect crime?

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.

But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

I Am Pilgrim: What I thought

This book has been recommended by many, hyped, if you like, so I thought I had to read it. It’s strange, because I don’t often think I have to read a hyped-up book. So, there was something about I Am Pilgrim that attracted me. Well, after 50 pages I asked my friends, “Really?” They said, “Keep going.” At page 200 I was still not convinced and only around page 250 did it start to pick up. I mean, some books are only 250 pages long!

What I did like in the first third of the book was the way the different story lines were told. Very clever and adventurous. What I didn’t like was that these story lines felt like huge distractions from the main story. I was promised a story about a murder in a New York hotel (as per the first chapter). What I got were stories about Russian spies and Saudi terrorists.

While these were fine stories, they didn’t add much or anything to the story I was hoping to get. So, it took a while before the main story really got going. And then it was a very interesting story, again very clever and adventurous, with towards the end an amount of James Bond-ishness that was a little over the top for me.

Lots happens, things mentioned 500 pages ago come back near the end, so it all fits together very nicely. If you can handle stories-within-the-story and are happy to sit tight for the long haul, you might very well enjoy this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (Good)

Number of pages: 756 (ebook)

First published: 2014

I got this: from the publishers, Transworld, for review via Netgalley (ebook)

Genre: thriller



About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

16 Responses to Book Review: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

  1. Leslie says:

    I guess sticking with it was the right decision. I like stories within a story – Beautiful Ruins was like that and was a favorite of mine – but I doubt I could stay interested in this one for 500+ pages.

  2. Athira says:

    I guess this is a book one may enjoy better if he/she had no idea what to expect. Still, it bugs me when books don’t have a strong direction right from page one.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Athira, I didn’t really know what to expect with this book. It was after the first chapter that I thought it would be a story about a murder in New York and then it turned out to be a lot different. That was frustrating.

  3. Techeditor says:

    I read the first chapter. I didn’t like it. That was enough time wasted for me. But I don’t get your review. Why the heck did you give it four out of five?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Techeditor, I actually liked the first chapter a lot. But after that, it was hard going. Still, the way the story lines were told was really good and in the end, I did enjoy it. Four out of five stars for me is good, but not briliant.

  4. Hmmmm…. I will have to look at this one, pretty sure I have it somewhere around here 😉

  5. I thought it was too long and that knowing it was narrated by someone who was (still) alive removed a lot of tension that it could have done with retaining — but I did think it was a fascinating, if inevitable, story-line. It’s hard to know what to replace the classic Cold War spy stories with nowadays!

  6. Laurie C says:

    I’m not sure about reading this, but I’ve been catching a bit of the hype and have been wondering about it so it’s good to have your thoughts!

  7. Marie says:

    Really interesting to read your thoughts on this one – I read it recently and felt much the same. I kind of enjoyed the overall experience, but there was a lot wrong with it – it’s a bit all over the place! So many people have absolutely adored it, though!

  8. Isi says:

    Looks good, I’ve read some reviews and I’m also interested in it.

  9. A Fresh Tomorrow says:

    Great review! Enjoyed your thoughts on the novel. I just finished it a few days ago and thought it was definitely worth the time. It’s clever in how the story and all the bit parts fold together in the end.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Fresh Tomorrow, I agree that it was really good how it all came together in the end. I found the whole book a little too long-winded, but it’s not a book I’ll easily forget.

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