This was an atypical genre for me as whilst I like a good spy thriller on the big screen, I’m that not much of a fan as a reader so would never typically reach for the likes of Tom Clancy or John Le Carré. But you know what, I’m glad that I took myself out of my comfort zone and read “I am Pilgrim” as I enjoyed it.
So, what’s it about?
“I Am Pilgrim” begins with a gruesome crime scene. Our narrator and main protagonist, who has many aliases, one of which is Pilgrim, is summoned to a hotel room in the aftermath of 9/11 to examine a crime scene and the body of an almost unrecognisable woman; she has been killed in a way that erases all signs of her identity, but more disturbingly, in a way that he himself had outlined in the forensics manual that he wrote whilst in the CIA.
And so, it begins, weaving a plot that hurtles at break neck speed across Europe and the Middle East, as Pilgrim pursues his nemesis Saracen whose father was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia when he was a child, starting him on the path to jihadism and his plot to destroy the evil West with a terrible act of mass murder.
And what did I like?
It’s very visual. You can tell that the author is a screen writer as he brings the plot to life in terrifying detail; the language is descriptive but spare and moves the plot along quickly. Is it the most beautifully written prose that I’ve read? No. But it’s engaging, fast paced and does the job.
I enjoyed that the story took me to counties and conflicts that I wish I knew more about, and quite frankly should know more about; admittedly learning about them from a skewed perspective in the context of this story.
Having read other reviews that are damning of the anti-Islam/pro American narrative, I was prepared for a very biased perspective. And yes, it’s a gripping mix of terrorist clichés with caricatures and stereotypes out in full force, but I still found it compulsive reading and wanted to see where the plot would take me.
Upon further reflection, I preferred the first half to the second; I got sucked in to the tale quickly and was intrigued with where it was going, who this psychotic killer was and how these events were related to the almost mythical terrorist back story of Saracen. The second half, where the plot unravels and the protagonist gets the killers in his sights is enjoyable, but I think it could have been tighter and shorter; the story felt 100/150 pages too long and I found my attention wandering towards the end. I still wanted to finish it, and I did, but I didn’t have the same appetite for the story as this high-octane chase to catch a killer unwound to its conclusion.
I love a good action and adventure, and this is just that; no more no less.