I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Rating: I would give this book 5 stars without even skipping a beat.

Category: Thriller

Synopsis: Scott Murdoch is a retired secret agent. He is called upon to investigate the perfect crime – a murder in a seedy hotel room with a faceless victim and all traces of the killer’s fingerprints removed. This murder is connected to a dangerously intelligent and untraceable terrorist dedicated to America’s destruction.

Scott is pitted against a ghost with no identity and no history who always seems to be one step ahead. A battle of wits and of wills commences as he races to stop the terrorist’s plot before anyone even knows it exists.


First Impressions

Now I’m not someone who normally goes for spy thrillers. I find that all too often they can be cliché, predictable and populated with gung-ho, rather arrogant heroes. Nevertheless, after being pestered by my entire family I relented and finally put my stuck-up literary nose into this ‘spy novel’. It turns out that I Am Pilgrim had me eating my words.


The most outstanding feature of this novel is, of course, the plot. All of the different sub-stories held my attention and went tearing along at breakneck speed, before crashing together in the book’s explosive final chapters.

Cliché? No. The plot is smart, original and extremely intricate, spanning decades and taking the reader across the globe from New York to Saudi Arabia.

Predictable? Also no. Even if, perhaps, everything does slot into place a little too conveniently in the ending, there was no shortage of suspense throughout and some plot twists genuinely caught me off guard.

Writing Style

Terry Hayes constructs a modern 21st-century threat to the Western world that is unsettling for its believability. This book is the definition of a page turner – if I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it or talking about it.


As for I Am Pilgrim’s reluctant hero, Scott Murdoch, a few reviews have been critical of his character for being weakly constructed. However, I found that something about the air of resigned sadness he seems to carry made me sympathetic to him; I did become invested in his character.

Far from the shoot-it-or-shag-it persona, Scott is perceptive and has a sensitivity that is called into question during his rise through the intelligence agency.

I was intrigued by the book’s exploration of the theme of loneliness throughout. As summed up perfectly by my favourite quote below, Scott feels isolated from those around him because of his chilling intelligence work.

He is observant but separate, as an outsider looking in. This contributes to the sense of sadness surrounding him. Ultimately, his character gives I Am Pilgrim a humanity that sets it apart from other thrillers and has earned it pride of place as the first book review of my blog!

Favourite quote:

‘I slept and dreamed that life was beauty; I woke and found that life was duty’. Taken from a poem by Louisa May Alcott.

Read if: You want an intelligent, modern and exciting thriller with a difference.

Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Have you read I Am Pilgrim? What did you think? Please do share your opinion in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

3 thoughts on “I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes”

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