A woman is found dead, murdered, in a hotel near Ground Zero in New York City. NYPD Detective Ben Bradley calls in a man known as Pilgrim, a former undercover intelligence operative, to help with the case. But what Pilgrim discovers shocks him, and he realizes that this isn’t a singular event, but something connected to a series of events that’s been occurring all over the world. It puts him on the trail of a man known only as the Saracen, a man who promises to commit the greatest act of terrorism the world has ever known—and only Pilgrim can stop him.
I Am Pilgrim features great character development and an expansive, ambitious storyline as it sets the standard for the post-9/11 spy thriller.
I Am Pilgrim is an ambitious literary thriller, a spy novel for the post-9/11 world. It’s a huge novel, both in length and breadth, and that makes it difficult to review. Let’s start with Pilgrim himself: this is a man who has lived most of his life off the books. He’s committed unspeakable acts in the name of protecting our country and has lived to tell the tale. He’d still be living off the radar if Bradley hadn’t tracked him down, an impressive story that could be a novel in its own right. He’s a capable, smart, and resourceful character, and it’s a lot of fun to be along for the ride with him.
The story of I Am Pilgrim is just huge. The novel starts with just one simple murder, but every preconception you (and Bradley and Pilgrim) have is blown out of the water pretty quickly. At first it feels like the novel jumps around a lot, in time and between characters, but it quickly becomes clear that it’s all connected. Hayes does a great job keeping the suspense high while also providing enough answers to where the reader doesn’t feel frustrated with or overwhelmed by this novel.
In lesser hands, I Am Pilgrim could have been (and likely would have been) a jumbled mess, but Hayes expertly crafts this novel, keeping the expansive storyline tight. It’s hard to really imagine how Hayes wrote this; it’s clear his mind works in mysterious ways, and the reader is the better off for it. It’s amazing how this huge novel can move so quickly; it’s such a fast read, and the pace never lets up. If you’re intimidated by long novels, this is still worth considering because of its breakneck pace.
If you’ve been looking for a novel that will keep you absolutely riveted from the very first page, then I Am Pilgrim is the novel you should be picking up. It has a great story, yes, but it also has heart. Readers will be moved to tears as the characters remember the fateful events of 9/11, and they will find themselves feeling a surprising amount of sympathy for a man looking to hurt innocent Americans. This novel is complex and layered, and will appeal to a wide variety of readers.