Sunday, June 22, 2014

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller British-born Terry Hayes’ filmography runs to nearly twenty films. Perhaps best known in the U.S. for Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome, he was also script writer and producer of Dead Calm, the horror/thriller that featured a couple alone on a yacht on the Great Barrier Reef when murderers come calling.

Now, Hayes' debut novel is an espionage wunderkind that was originally published in 2013 in England by Bantam and Transworld Press and came out this summer in the U.S. Re-released in hardcover this year by Atria and in audio by Simon & Schuster, it is making a huge splash in the summer reading market.

I just finished two nonfiction spy histories: Ben MacIntyre’s new A Spy Among Friends about spies in Britain and Kai Bird’s The Good Spy about American spies. I thought I was done with spies for awhile, so imagine my surprise to discover Hayes writes about espionage as well. But Hayes’ operative, code-named Pilgrim, is run straight from the White House (!) by The Whisperer, an old White House insider who appears to be dying, maybe from throat cancer. (?)

Hayes luxuriates in the ability to tell detailed backstories about all his characters, for a novel has the potential to have far more of everything than a screenplay. Like many mysteries and thrillers, this novel has the de rigueur two threads: A young white lesbian is killed in New York City and a terrorist gets mujahideen training in Afghanistan. What is absolutely gob-smacking is how the two threads actually come together in Turkey.

The proof that a U.S. billionaire was murdered in Turkey has the most far-fetched daring inter-continental plot solution--even the characters themselves are skeptical. But brazen and ingenious it is, and one has to hand it to Hayes. He brings his understanding of film to the world of fiction.

Perhaps I am a little risqué for some folks, but I would suggest this story is a young adult title. The level of detail of actions and motivations would make it exciting reading for teens. There is some gun violence, but bodily harm is mostly done to Pilgrim himself. Since Pilgrim is describing it, it’s more interesting than fearsome. The good guy Pilgrim does some bad things, but his heart is in the right place. Even the bad guy, undeniably evil, has reasons for what he does. There is one person, however, that is bad through and through. That is the killer of the young woman in New York.

The story solves both crimes, but one killer escapes to kill another day, which must be why this book is called Pilgrim #1 on Goodreads. The first book of a series, it is sure to garner a large and enthusiastic audience. I listened to this on Simon & Schuster audio, read very capably by Christopher Ragland, and was provided with the audiobook by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Thriller readers everywhere are sure to be entranced with this finely constructed mystery and I immediately recommended the title to members of my family who enjoy thrillers.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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