I Am Pilgrim

( 69 )


Critics are calling I AM PILGRIM:
"Unputdownable." —Booklist
"The best book of 2014." —Suspense Magazine
"The next Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." —The New York Post

A breakneck race against time…and an ...

See more details below
BN.com price
(Save 35%)$26.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (36) from $7.97   
  • New (11) from $11.65   
  • Used (25) from $7.97   
I Am Pilgrim

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price


Critics are calling I AM PILGRIM:
"Unputdownable." —Booklist
"The best book of 2014." —Suspense Magazine
"The next Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." —The New York Post

A breakneck race against time…and an implacable enemy.

An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid.

A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square.

A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard.

Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan.

A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.

One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey.


Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
…the most exciting desert island read of the season…[with] more than enough subplots and flashbacks to keep readers riveted…Despite Mr. Hayes's long history as a movie guy…I Am Pilgrim is not a film treatment bloated into book form. It's a big, breathless tale of nonstop suspense, and it has something rarely found in big-budget movies of the same genre: the voice of a single writer instead of the patchwork nonsense created by endless collaborators and fixers. Mr. Hayes delivers his share of far-fetched moments, and no doubt he'd like to see I Am Pilgrim filmed some day. But he's his own worst enemy in that regard. His novel will be hard for any movie version to beat.
Publishers Weekly
★ 03/03/2014
Screenwriter and producer Hayes (Payback) makes his fiction debut with an exceptional thriller that boasts an utterly credible narrator who has had so many covert identities he can barely remember his original name. Soul-weary Scott Murdoch (aka the Pilgrim) has retired from the top echelon of ultrasecret espionage, but duty and faith in the human spirit call him back into service. A lone-wolf Middle Eastern native whom the Pilgrim code names “the Saracen” has a sure-fire bioterrorist plot to destroy the United States. In the cinematic chase that ensues, the action traverses the globe, from the Oval Office to the dusty trails of Afghanistan, each scene fleshed out in the smallest resonating detail (e.g., a Down syndrome child’s laughter, the endless nausea of waterboarding). Like many pilgrimages, this one is painfully long and packed with unexpected menace, its glimpses of the goal fitful and far between, but readers will agree that this journey of body and soul is well worth the effort. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME. (May)
"Exhilarating...Hayes masterfully guides readers through an incredibly elaborate, drum-tight plot."
Wichita Eagle
“A debut thriller reminiscent of John le Carre.”
I Am Pilgrim isan all too realistic tale of the dangers the next generation of terrorists cancatastrophically impose. The well-developed characters and the non-stopaction combine to produce a page-turning unpredictable plot.”
Associated Press Staff
“The storytelling and a truly intriguing protagonist make “I Am Pilgrim” a contender for best-of-the-year lists.”
The Pretty Good Gatsby
“I AM PILGRIM is greater than the hype. It’s the kind of book that rocked me to my core and left me breathless. It took me over a month to finally come up with a review but even after a month’s thought, nothing I say will be good enough. This book is that good...I’m counting on it becoming a huge hit this summer.”
Denver Post
“I AM PILGRIM has all the elements of a blockbuster thriller.”
S. Krishna Books
"I Am Pilgrim features great character development and an expansive, ambitious storyline as it sets the standard for the post-9/11 spy thriller."
That's What She Read
“Simply amazing…I Am Pilgrim is a fantastic read and needs to be on everyone’s summer must-read list.”
“[Terry Hayes is a] masterful novelist wizard.”
Bookaliious Mama
“Hayesis a master storyteller, and I Am Pilgrim is an amazingaccomplishment…the perfect summer read…it’s actually greater than thehype…can’t recommend it any more highly.”
Providence Journal
“Pilgrim turns out to be the most fascinating thriller hero I’ve encountered since Trevanian’s legendary Nicolai Hel... Bracing, blisteringly original, and hopefully not the last time we see both Hayes and Pilgrim.”
Weekly Gravy
“This is one of those whirlwind reads that is a sheer joy to dive into.”
The Huffington Post
"I AM PILGRIM Is the Best Book of 2014"
Naples Daily News
"Whatever you’re doing right now, stand up and turn around. Take a good look at the edge of your seat. That’s where you’ll be clinging when you read I Am Pilgrim.”
Bookalicious Mama
“Hayes is a master storyteller, and I Am Pilgrim is an amazing accomplishment…the perfect summer read…it’s actually greater than the hype…can’t recommend it any more highly.”
The New York Post
"The next 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'."
Kate White
"This murder mystery/spy thriller grabs you from the first sentence and won’t let you out of its grip. A brilliant American secret agent and forensics expert is in a race against the clock to stop a terrorist with a plan to destroy the United States. Please fasten your seat belt."
Brad Thor
"'I Am Pilgrim' is [a] gripping debut novel, which pits a brilliant intelligence operative against an equally brilliant terrorist. Weighing in at over 600 pages, you get your money’s worth and more with this thriller."
My Big Honkin' Blog
“I Am Pilgrim might have you tempted to draw comparisons to other aces of the thrill, but those comparisons will miss the mark for this thoroughly original read that ranks among my favorites of the year thus far.”
People Magazine
“An intriguing, multi-perspective thriller… the story made me almost miss my subway stop.”
“I highly recommend I Am Pilgrim to fans of Mystery, thrillers, Spy novels, and action-adventure. The writing is much more highly evolved than your garden variety spy thrillers, with excellent characters and a great ending that blows up on the page.”
The Chattanoogan
“The best book of the year.”
Boston Globe
“Pick of the Week…gripping debut thriller. ”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“I was impressed with the confidence of Hayes' narrative voice and the complexity in his plotting, both of which make the violence and the tradecraft details thoroughly believable (and probably real).“
Fort Meyers Florida Weekly
“A definitepage-turner.”
New York Daily News
·“I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes, is one of the best thrillers I have read in a real long time.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"The strongest [thriller] in years . . . a taut, global trek . . . a long and perfect pilgrimage. (Grade: A)"
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
“The most exciting desert island read of the season…a big, breathless tale of nonstop suspense.”
The Hollywood Reporter
“I am Pilgrim is a great, gripping thrill ride of a novel (that still feels grounded in reality). If you're looking for an action thriller/spy story for the beach, Pilgrim is a winner.”
BOLO Books
“[I Am Pilgrim] is like a Jack Higgins novel by way of John Le Carré with more than a dash of Charles Dickens.”
The Washington Missourian
“Gripping from theget-go. . . A thriller of a spy novel."
“The pages fly by ferociously fast. Simply unputdownable.”
Mail on Sunday
"THRILLER OF THE WEEK. Delivers thrills and spills...A full tilt mix of Homeland, The Wire and The Bourne Ultimatum."
Irish Independent
"Massive in many senses, but none more so than its ability to exert a vice-like grip on the reader....Destined to be spy thriller of the year."
#1 New York Times bestselling author - David Baldacci
“Hayes delivers muscular prose, sniper-round accurate dialogue and enough superb and original plotting to fill three volumes. He balances it all with the dexterity of the accomplished storyteller that he so obviously is. I Am Pilgrim is simply one of the best suspense novels I've read in a long time.”
Suspense Magazine
"The best book of 2014."
Gregg Hurwitz
"I Am Pilgrim is a twelve-course meal of a thriller.... A breathtaking accomplishment of a debut."
The Times, UK - Adam LeBor
"I Am Pilgrim is a 21st century thriller: a high concept plot, but with finely drawn protagonists. The plot twists and turns like a python in a sack. Thestyle is visceral, gritty and cinematic...A satisfying and ambitious book, written with skill and verve."
Robert Goddard
"Rendition yourself into a pulsating thriller that never lets up as it carries the hero and the reader on an ever more desperate race between time and an all too plausible disaster for the world we live in. Great nail-biting stuff!"
UK Literary Review
"The narrative is thrilling: the tension tightens with action...It's a murder mystery, an illuminating account of contemporary international politics and a study of an unusual man......An excellent thriller which as a first novel is really remarkable."
Kirkus Reviews
Tom Clancy meets Robin Cook in a thriller that should find a place in many beach bags this summer.Debut novelist Hayes brings well-refined storytelling chops to the enterprise: He's written numerous screenplays, including Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Indeed, while reading this novel, one gets the sense it was written to turn into a screenplay or perhaps began life that way, what with its shifting points of view and a narrator who may or may not be reliable. Whatever the case, Hayes gets us into the thick of things right away: Pilgrim, a federal agent, is a brilliant student of the human psyche who just happens to have awesome killing skills that he's practiced on several continents; in Moscow, for instance, he recounts, "even though I was young and inexperienced I killed my boss like a professional." Don't give him a bad performance review, then. He finds plenty of scope for his talents when put up against a former mujahedeen ominously code-named The Saracen, who's resolved to wreak all kinds of havoc on the West for its offenses against Islam. He's a bad, bad man—the fact that he wasn't killed in the war along with a million other Afghans, Hayes writes, "would make most people question if not God's existence at least His common sense." Hayes is a master of the extremely gruesome scene—the opening involves an acid bath, and later we get popped eyeballs, beheadings and all kinds of grisliness. The story does go on a hundred pages too long and gets sidelined here and there, but it has considerable strengths, and the author gets points for avoiding at least some clichés and putting a few Arabs into key good-guy (or good-girl) positions.Two psychos enter, and one psycho leaves. Good entertainment for readers with a penchant for mayhem, piles of bodies and a lethal biochemical agent or two.
Library Journal
★ 01/01/2014
A woman's body is found in a New York hotel, her teeth missing and her features dissolved by acid. All the surfaces in the room have been cleaned, and the room has been sprayed with disinfectant to destroy DNA that may have left behind. It's a textbook murder, and Pilgrim, once head of a super-secret espionage unit, is the one who (literally) wrote the book. On the other side of the world, a Muslim jihadist, code name Saracen, synthesizes a fast-acting form of the smallpox virus. It will spread like wildfire when released across America: there's no protection against it. Pilgrim is called in to find and stop him. One of this debut novel's virtues is the sympathy screenwriter/producer Hayes (Dead Calm; Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) shows for both his characters: Saracen must be stopped, but you understand what led him to where he is now. In his quest, Pilgrim finds the answer to the New York killing as well. VERDICT Sure, the race against time to save the world has been done before but seldom this well. Once you start this taut and muscular thriller, you won't be able to put it down. [See Prepub Alert, 11/10/13.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439177723
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • Publication date: 5/27/2014
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 14,038
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Hayes is the award-winning writer and producer of numerous movies. His credits include Payback, Road Warrior, and Dead Calm (featuring Nicole Kidman). He lives in Switzerland with his wife, Kristen, and their four children.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

There is no terror so consistent, so elusive to describe, as that which haunts a spy in a strange country.
—John le Carré, The Looking Glass War

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.
—Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder



There are places I'll remember all my life—Red Square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother's bedroom on the wrong side of Eight Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theater of Death.

But nothing is burned deeper in my memory than a walk-up in New York—threadbare curtains, cheap furniture, a table loaded with tina and other party drugs. Lying next to the bed are a handbag, black panties the size of dental floss, and a pair of six-inch Jimmy Choos. Like their owner, they don't belong here. She is naked in the bathroom—her throat cut, floating facedown in a bathtub full of sulfuric acid, the active ingredient in a drain cleaner available at any supermarket.

Dozens of empty bottles of the cleaner—Drain Bomb, it's called— lie scattered on the floor. Unnoticed, I start picking through them. They've all got their price tags still attached and I see that, in order to avoid suspicion, whoever killed her bought them at twenty different stores. I've always said it's hard not to admire good planning.

The place is in chaos, the noise deafening—police radios blaring, coroner's assistants yelling for support, a Hispanic woman sobbing. Even if a victim doesn't know anyone in the world, it seems like there's always someone sobbing at a scene like this.

The young woman in the bath is unrecognizable—the three days she has spent in the acid have destroyed all her features. That was the plan I guess—whoever killed her had also weighed down her hands with telephone books. The acid has dissolved not only her fingerprints but almost the entire metacarpal structure underneath. Unless the forensic guys at the NYPD get lucky with a dental match, they'll have a helluva time putting a name to this one.

In places like this, where you get a feeling evil still clings to the walls, your mind can veer into strange territory. The idea of a young woman without a face made me think of a Lennon/McCartney groove from long ago—it's about Eleanor Rigby, a woman who wore a face that she kept in a jar by the door. In my head I start calling the victim Eleanor. The crime-scene team still have work to do, but there isn't a person in the place who doesn't think Eleanor was killed during sex: the mattress half off the base, the tangled sheets, a brown spray of decaying arterial blood on a bedside table. The really sick ones figure he cut her throat while he was still inside her. The bad thing is—they may be right. However she died, those that look for blessings may find one here—she wouldn't have realized what was happening, not until the last moment anyway.

Tina—crystal meth—would have taken care of that. It makes you so damn horny, so euphoric as it hits your brain that any sense of foreboding would have been impossible. Under its influence the only coherent thought most people can marshal is to find a partner and bang their back out.

Next to the two empty foils of tina is what looks like one of those tiny shampoo bottles you get in hotel bathrooms.

Unmarked, it contains a clear liquid—GHB, I figure. It's getting a lot of play now in the dark corners of the web: in large doses it is replacing rohypnol as the date-rape drug of choice. Most music venues are flooded with it: clubbers slug a tiny cap to cut tina, taking the edge off of its paranoia. But GHB also comes with its own side effects—a loss of inhibitions and a more intense sexual experience. On the street one of its names is Easy Lay. Kicking off her Jimmys, stepping out of her tiny black skirt, Eleanor must have been a rocket on the Fourth of July.

As I move through the crush of people—unknown to any of them, a stranger with an expensive jacket slung over his shoulder and a lot of freight in his past—I stop at the bed. I close out the noise and in my mind I see her on top, naked, riding him cowgirl. She is in her early twenties with a good body and I figure she is right into it—the cocktail of drugs whirling her toward a shattering orgasm, her body temperature soaring, thanks to the meth, her swollen breasts pushing down, her heart and respiratory rate rocketing under the onslaught of passion and chemicals, her breath coming in gulping bursts, her wet tongue finding a mind of its own and searching hard for the mouth below. Sex today sure isn't for sissies.

Neon signs from a row of bars outside the window would have hit the blond highlights in her three-hundred-dollar haircut and sparkled off a Panerai diver's watch. Yeah, it's fake but it's a good one. I know this woman. We all do—the type anyway. You see them in the huge new Prada store in Milan, queuing outside the clubs in Soho, sipping skinny lattes in the hot cafés on the Avenue Montaigne— young women who mistake People magazine for news and a Japanese symbol on their backs as a sign of rebellion.

I imagine the killer's hand on her breast, touching a jeweled nipple ring. The guy takes it between his fingers and yanks it, pulling her closer. She cries out, revved—everything is hypersensitive now, especially her nipples. But she doesn't mind—if somebody wants it rough, it just means they must really like her. Perched on top of him, the headboard banging hard against the wall, she would have been looking at the front door—locked and chained for sure. In this neighborhood that's the least you could do.

A diagram on the back shows an evacuation route—she is in a hotel but any resemblance to the Ritz-Carlton pretty much ends there. It is called the Eastside Inn—home to itinerants, backpackers, the mentally lost, and anybody else with twenty bucks a night. Stay as long as you like—a day, a month, the rest of your life—all you need is two IDs, one with a photo.

The guy who had moved into room 89 had been here for a while—a six-pack sits on a bureau, along with four half-empty bottles of hard liquor and a couple of boxes of breakfast cereal. A stereo and a few CDs are on a nightstand and I glance through them. He had good taste in music, at least you could say that. The closet, however, is empty—it seems like his clothes were about the only thing he took with him when he walked out, leaving the body to liquefy in the bath. Lying at the back of the closet is a pile of trash: discarded newspapers, an empty can of roach killer, a coffee-stained wall calendar. I pick it up—every page features a black-and-white photo of an ancient ruin—the Coliseum, a Greek temple, the Library of Celsus at night. Very arty. But the pages are blank, not an appointment on any of them—except as a coffee mat, it seems like it's never been used and I throw it back.

I turn away and—without thinking, out of habit really—I run my hand across the nightstand. That's strange, no dust. I do the same to the bureau, bed board, and stereo and get the identical result—the killer has wiped everything down to eliminate his prints. He gets no prizes for that, but as I catch the scent of something and raise my fingers to my nose, everything changes. The residue I can smell is from an antiseptic spray they use in intensive care wards to combat infection. Not only does it kill bacteria, but as a side effect it also destroys DNA material—sweat, skin, hair. By spraying everything in the room and then dousing the carpet and walls, the killer was making sure that the NYPD needn't bother with their forensic vacuum cleaners.

With sudden clarity I realize that this is anything but a by-thebook homicide for money or drugs or sexual gratification. As a murder, this is something remarkable.


Not everybody knows this—or cares probably—but the first law of forensic science is called Locard's Exchange Principle and it says "every contact between a perpetrator and a crime scene leaves a trace." As I stand in this room, surrounded by dozens of voices, I'm wondering if Professor Locard had ever encountered anything quite like room 89—everything touched by the killer is now in a bath full of acid, wiped clean or drenched in industrial antiseptic. I'm certain there's not a cell or follicle of him left behind.

A year ago I wrote an obscure book on modern investigative technique. In a chapter called "New Frontiers," I said I had come across the use of an antibacterial spray only once in my life—and that was a high-level hit on an intelligence agent in the Czech Republic. That case doesn't augur well—to this day, it remains unsolved. Whoever had been living in room 89 clearly knew their business and I start examining the room with the respect it deserves.

He wasn't a tidy person and among the other trash I see an empty pizza box lying next to the bed. I'm about to pass over it when I realize that's where he would have had the knife: lying on top of the pizza box within easy reach, so natural Eleanor probably wouldn't even have registered it.

I imagine her on the bed, reaching under the tangle of sheets for his crotch. She kisses his shoulder, his chest, going down. Maybe the guy knows what he's in for, maybe not: one of the side effects of GHB is that it suppresses the gag reflex. There's no reason a person can't swallow a seven-, eight-, ten-inch gun—that's why one of the easiest places to buy it is in gay saunas. Or on porn shoots.

I think of his hands grabbing her—he flips her onto her back and straddles her. She's thinking he's positioning himself for her mouth, but casually, his right hand would have dropped to the side of the bed. Unseen, the guy's fingers find the top of the pizza box, then touch what he's looking for—cold and cheap but because it's new, more than sharp enough to do the job.

Anybody watching from behind would have seen her back arch, a sort of moan escape her lips—they'd think he must have entered her mouth. He hasn't. Her eyes, bright with drugs, are flooding with fear. His left hand has clamped tight over her mouth, forcing her head back, exposing her throat. She bucks and writhes, tries to use her arms but he's anticipated that. Straddling her breasts, his knees slam down, pinning her by the biceps—you can just make out the two bruises on the body lying in the bath. She's helpless. His right hand rises up into view—Eleanor sees it and tries to scream, convulsing wildly, fighting to get free. The serrated steel of the pizza knife flashes past her breast, toward her pale throat. It slashes hard . . .

Blood sprays across the bedside table. With one of the arteries that feed the brain completely cut it would have been over in a moment. Eleanor crumples, gurgling, bleeding out. The last vestiges of consciousness, tell her she has just witnessed her own murder, all she ever was and hoped to be is gone. That's how he did it—he wasn't inside her at all. Once again, thank God for small mercies, I suppose.

The killer goes to prepare the acid bath and along the way pulls off the bloody white shirt he must have been wearing—they just found pieces of it under Eleanor's body in the bath, along with the knife: four inches long, black plastic handle, made by the millions in some sweatshop in China.

I'm still reeling from the vivid imagining of it all, so I barely register a rough hand taking my shoulder. As soon as I do, I throw it off, about to instantly break his arm—an echo from an earlier life, I'm afraid. It is some guy who mumbles a terse apology, looking at me strangely, trying to move me aside. He's the leader of a forensic team—three guys and a woman—setting up the UV lamps and dishes of the Fast Blue B dye they'll use to test the mattress for semen stains. They haven't found out about the antiseptic yet and I don't tell them—for all I know the killer missed a part of the bed. If he did, given the nature of the Eastside Inn, I figure they'll get several thousand positive hits dating back to when hookers wore stockings.

I get out of their way but I'm deeply distracted: I'm trying to close everything out because there is something about the room, the whole situation—I'm not exactly sure what—that is troubling me. A part of the scenario is wrong and I can't tell why. I look around, taking another inventory of what I see but I can't find it—I have a sense it's from earlier in the night. I go back, mentally rewinding the tape to when I first walked in.

What was it? I reach down into my subconscious, trying to recover my first impression—it was something detached from the violence, minor but with overriding significance.

If only I could touch it . . . a feeling . . . it's like . . . it's some word that is lying now on the other side of memory. I start thinking about how I wrote in my book that it is the assumptions, the unquestioned assumptions, that trip you up every time—and then it comes to me.

When I walked in I saw the six-pack on the bureau, a carton of milk in the fridge, registered the names of a few DVDs lying next to the TV, noted the liner in a trash can. And the impression—the word—that first entered my head but didn't touch my conscious mind was female. I got everything right about what had happened in room 89—except for the biggest thing of all. It wasn't a young guy who was staying here; it wasn't a naked man who was having sex with Eleanor and cut her throat. It wasn't a clever prick who destroyed her features with acid and drenched the room with antiseptic spray.

It was a woman.


I've known a lot of powerful people in my career, but I've only met one person with genuine natural authority—the sort of guy who could shout you down with just a whisper. He is in the corridor now, coming toward me, telling the forensic team they'll have to wait—the Fire Department wants to secure the acid before somebody gets burned.

"Keep your plastic gloves on, though," he advises. "You can give each other a free prostate exam out in the hall." Everybody except the forensic guys laughs.

The man with the voice is Ben Bradley, the homicide lieutenant in charge of he crime scene. He's been down in the manager's office, trying to locate the scumbag who runs the joint. He's a tall black man—Bradley, not the scumbag—in his early fifties with big hands and Industry jeans turned up at the cuff. His wife talked him into buying them recently in a forlorn attempt to update his image, instead of which—he says—they make him look like a character from a Steinbeck novel, a modern refugee from the dust bowl.

Like all the other regulars at these murder circuses he has little affection for the forensic specialists. First, the work was outsourced a few years back and overpaid people like these started turning up in crisp white boilersuits with names like FORENSIC BIOLOGICAL SERVICES, INC. on the back. Second—and what really tipped it over the edge for him—were the two shows featuring forensic work that hit it big on TV and led to an insufferable outbreak of celebrityhood in the minds of its practitioners.

"Jesus," he complained recently, "is there anybody in this country who isn't dreaming of being on a reality show?"

As he watches the would-be celebrities repack their labs-in-a-briefcase he catches sight of me—standing silently against the wall, just watching, like I seem to have spent half my life doing. He ignores the people demanding his attention and makes his way over. We don't shake hands—I don't know why, it's just never been our way. I'm not even sure if we're friends—I've always been pretty much on the outside of any side you can find, so I'm probably not the one to judge. We respect each other, though, if that helps.

"Thanks for coming," he says.

I nod, looking at his turned-up Industries and black work boots, ideal for paddling through the blood and shit of a crime scene.

"What did you come by—tractor?" I ask. He doesn't laugh, Ben hardly ever laughs; he's about the most deadpan guy you'll ever meet. Which doesn't mean he isn't funny.

"Had a chance to look around, Ramon?" he says quietly.

My name is not Ramon and he knows it. But he also knows that until recently I was a member of one of our nation's most secret intelligence agencies, so I figure he's referring to Ramon Garcia. Ramon was an FBI agent who went to almost infinite trouble to conceal his identity as he sold our nation's secrets to the Russians—then left his fingerprints all over the Hefty garbage bags he used to deliver the stolen documents. Ramon was almost certainly the most incompetent covert operator in history. Like I say, Ben is very funny.

"Yeah, I've seen a bit," I tell him. "What you got on the person living in this dump? She's the prime suspect, huh?"

Ben can hide many things, but his eyes can't mask the look of surprise—a woman?!

Excellent, I think—Ramon strikes back. Still, Bradley's a cool cop. "That's interesting, Ramon," he says trying to find out if I'm really on to something or whether I've just jumped the shark. "How'd you figure that?"

I point at the six-pack on the bureau, the milk in the fridge. "What guy does that? A guy keeps the beer cold, lets the milk go bad. Look at the DVDs—romantic comedies and not an action film among them. Wanna take a walk?" I continue, "Find out how many other guys in this dump use liners in their trash cans. That's what a woman does— one who doesn't belong here, no matter what part she's acting."

He weighs what I've said, holding my gaze, but it's impossible to tell whether he's buying what I'm selling. Before I can ask, two young detectives—a woman and her partner—appear from behind the fire department's hazmat barrels. They scramble to a stop in front of Bradley.

"We got something, Ben!" the female cop says. "It's about the occupant—"

Bradley nods calmly. "Yeah, it's a woman—tell me something I don't know. What about her?"

I guess he was buying it. The two cops stare, wondering how the hell he knew. By morning the legend of their boss will have grown even greater. Me? I'm thinking the guy is shameless; he's going to take the credit without even blinking? I start laughing.

Bradley glances at me and, momentarily, I think he's going to laugh back but it's a forlorn hope. His sleepy eyes seem to twinkle, though, as his attention reverts to the two cops. "How'd you know it was a woman?" he asks them.

"We got hold of the hotel register and all the room files," the male detective—name of Connor Norris—replies.

Bradley is suddenly alert. "From the manager? You found the scumbag—got him to unlock the office?"

Norris shakes his head. "There are four drug warrants out for his arrest, he's probably halfway to Mexico. No, Alvarez here," he indicates his female partner, "she recognized a guy wanted for burglary living upstairs." He looks at his partner, not sure how much more to say.

Alvarez shrugs, hopes for the best, and comes clean. "I offered the burglar a get-out-of-jail-free card if he'd pick the locks on the manager's office and safe for us."

She looks at Bradley, nervous, wondering how much trouble this is gonna cause.

Her boss's face gives away nothing, his voice just drops a notch, even softer. "And then?"

"Eight locks in total and he was through 'em in under a minute," she says. "No wonder nothing's safe in this town."

"What was in the woman's file?" Bradley asks.

"Receipts. She'd been living here just over a year," Norris says. "Paid in cash, didn't have the phone connected, TV, cable, nothing. Sure didn't want to be traced."

Bradley nods—exactly what he was thinking. "When was the last time any of the neighbors saw her?"

"Three or four days ago, nobody's sure," Norris recounts.

Bradley murmurs. "Disappeared straight after she killed her date, I guess. What about ID, there must have been something in her file?"

Alvarez checks her notes. "Photocopies of a Florida driver's license and a student card or something—no picture on it," she says. "I bet they're genuine."

"Check 'em anyway," Bradley tells them.

"We gave 'em to Petersen," says Norris, referring to another young detective. "He's onto it."

Bradley acknowledges it. "Does the burglar—any of the others— know the suspect, anything about her?"

They shake their heads. "Nobody. They'd just see her come and go," Norris says. "Early twenties, about five eight, a great body according to the burglar—"

Bradley raises his eyes to heaven. "By his standards that probably means she's got two legs."

Norris smiles but not Alvarez—she just wishes Bradley would say something about her deal with the burglar. If he's going to ream her out, get it over with. Instead, she has to continue to participate, professional: "According to a so-called actress in 114 the chick changed her appearance all the time. One day Marilyn Monroe, the next Marilyn Manson, sometimes both Marilyns on the same day. Then there was Drew and Britney, Dame Edna, k.d. lang—"

"You're serious?" Bradley asks. The young cops nod, reeling off more names as if to prove it. "I'm really looking forward to seeing this Photofit," he says, realizing that all the common avenues of a murder investigation are being closed down. "Anything else?" They shake their heads, done.

"Better start getting statements from the freaks—or at least those without warrants, which will probably amount to about three of 'em."

Bradley dismisses them, turning to me in the shadows, starting to broach something that has been causing him a lot of anxiety.

"Ever seen one of these?" he asks, pulling on plastic gloves and taking a metal box off a shelf in the closet—it's khaki in color, so thin I hadn't even noticed it. He's about to open it but turns to look at Alvarez and Norris for a moment. They are heading out, weaving through the firefighters packing up their hazmat pumps now.

"Hey, guys," he calls. They turn and look. "About the burglar— that was good work." We see the relief on Alvarez's face and they both raise their hands in silent acknowledgment, smiling. No wonder his crew worship him.

I'm looking at the metal box—on closer examination more like Hayes an attaché case with a serial number stenciled on the side in white letters. It's obviously military, but I only have a vague memory of seeing anything like it. "A battlefield surgical kit?" I say without much conviction.

"Close," Bradley says. "Dentistry." He opens the box, revealing— nestled in foam—a full set of Army dental instruments: spreader pliers, probes, extraction forceps.

I stare at him. "She pulled the victim's teeth?" I ask. "All of 'em. We haven't found any, so I figure she dumped 'em— maybe she flushed them down the john and we'll get lucky, that's why we're tearing the plumbing apart."

"Were the teeth pulled before or after she killed her?"

Ben realizes where I'm going. "No, it wasn't torture. The coroner says it was after death, to prevent identification. It was the reason I asked you to drop by—I remembered something in your book about home dentistry and a murder. If it was in the US, I was hoping there might be a—"

"No connection—Sweden," I say. "A guy used a surgical hammer on the victim's bridgework and jaw—same objective I guess—but forceps? I've never seen anything like that."

"Well, we have now," Ben replies.

"Inspiring," I say, "the onward rush of civilization I mean." Putting aside my despair about humanity, I have to say I'm even more impressed by the killer—it couldn't have been easy pulling thirty-two teeth from a dead person. The killer had obviously grasped one important concept, a thing that eludes most people who decide on her line of work—nobody's ever been arrested for a murder; they have only ever been arrested for not planning it properly.

I indicate the metal case. "Where's a civilian get one of these?" I ask.

Ben shrugs. "Anywhere they like. I called a buddy in the Pentagon and he went into the archives: forty thousand were surplus—the Army unloaded the lot through survival stores over the last few years. We'll chase 'em, but we won't nail it that way. I'm not sure anybody could . . ."

His voice trails away—he's lost in a labyrinth, running his gaze around the room, trying to find a way out. "I've got no face," he says softly, "no dental records, no witnesses—worst of all no motive. You know this business better than anyone—if I asked you about solving it, what odds would you lay?"

"Right now? Powerball," I tell him. "You walk in, the first thing you think is amateur, just another drug or sex play. Then you look closer—I've only seen a couple anywhere near as good as this." Then I tell him about the antiseptic spray and of course that's not something he wants to hear.

"Thanks for the encouragement," he says. Unthinking, he rubs his index finger and thumb together and I know from close observation over a long period that it means he'd like a cigarette. He told me once he'd given up in the '90s and there must have been a million times since then that he'd thought a smoke might help. This is obviously one of them. To get over the craving he talks. "You know my problem? Marcie told me this once—" Marcie is his wife. "I get too close to the victims, ends up I sort of imagine I'm the only friend they've got left."

"Their champion?" I suggest.

"That's exactly the word she used. And there's one thing I've never been able to do—Marcie says it could be the only thing she really likes about me—I've never been able to let a friend down."

Champion of the dead, I think. There could be worse things. I wish there was something I could do to help him but there isn't—it's not my investigation and, although I'm only in my thirties, I'm retired.

A technician enters the room fast, yelling in an Asian accent: "Ben?" Bradley turns. "In the basement!"


Three technicians in coveralls have torn apart an old brick wall. Despite their face masks, they're almost gagging from the smell inside the cavity. It's not a body they've found, rotting flesh has its own particular odor—this is leaking sewage, mold, and a hundred generations of rat shit.

Bradley makes his way through a sequence of foul cellars and stops in the harsh light of a bank of work lights illuminating the wrecked wall. I follow in his wake, tagging along with the other investigators, arriving just in time to see the Asian guy—a Chinese-American whom everyone calls Bruce for obvious reasons—shine a portable light deep into the newly opened cavity.

Inside is a maze of cowboy plumbing. Bruce explains that having torn up the bathroom in room 89 without finding anything trapped in the U-bends, they went one step further. They got a capsule of Fast Blue B dye from the forensic guys, mixed it into a pint of water, and poured it down the waste pipe.

It took five minutes for all of it to arrive and they knew if it was running that slow, there had to be a blockage somewhere between the basement and room 89. Now they've found it—in the matrix of pipes and illegal connections behind the wall.

"Please tell me it's the teeth," Bradley says. "She flush 'em down the toilet?"

Bruce shakes his head and shines the portable light on a mush of charred paper trapped in a right-angle turn. "The pipe comes straight from room 89—we tested it," he says, pointing at the mush. "Whatever this is, she probably burnt it, then sent it down the crapper. That was the right thing to do—except she didn't know about the code violations."

With the help of tweezers, Bradley starts to pick the congealed mess apart. "Bits of receipts, corner of a MetroCard, movie ticket," he recounts to everyone watching. "Looks like she took a final sweep through the place, got rid of anything she missed." He carefully separates more burnt fragments. "A shopping list, could be useful to match the handwriting if we ever find—"

He stops, staring at a piece of paper slightly less charred than the rest. "Seven numbers. Written by hand: '9 0 2 5 2 3 4.' It's not complete, the rest has been burnt off."

He holds the scrap of paper up to the group, but I know it's me he's really speaking to, as if my job at an intelligence agency qualifies me as a cryptographer. Seven handwritten numbers, half-destroyed—they could mean anything—but I have one advantage: people in my former business are always dealing in fragments, so I don't just dismiss it.

Among everybody else of course the speculation starts immediately—bank account, credit card, zip code, an IP address, a phone number. Alvarez says there's no such thing as a 902 area code and she's right. Sort of.

"Yeah, but we connect to the Canadian system," Petersen, the young detective—built like a linebacker—tells her. "Nine-oh-two is Nova Scotia. My grandfather had a farm up there."

Bradley doesn't respond, he keeps looking at me for my opinion. I've learned from bitter experience not to say anything unless you're certain, so I just shrug—which means Bradley and everyone else move on.

What I'm really thinking about is the wall calendar, which has been worrying me since I first saw it. According to the price on the back it cost forty bucks at Rizzoli, the upmarket bookstore, and that's a lot of money to tell the date and never use. The killer was obviously a smart woman and the thought occurred to me it wasn't a calendar at all to her; maybe she had an interest in ancient ruins.

I had spent most of my career working in Europe and though it's a long time since I traveled that far east, I'm pretty sure 90 is the international code for Turkey. Spend even a day traveling in that country and you realize it has more Greco-Roman ruins than just about any place on earth. If 90 is the country prefix, it's possible the subsequent digits are an area code and part of a phone number. Without anyone noticing, I walk out and head for the quietest part of the basement and make a call to Verizon on my cell phone—I want to find out about Turkish area codes.

As I wait for the phone company to pick up I glance at my watch and I'm shocked to realize that dawn must be breaking outside—it is now ten hours since a janitor, checking a power failure in the next room, unlocked the door to room 89 to access some wiring. No wonder everybody looks tired.

At last I reach someone on a Verizon help desk, a heavily accented woman at what I guess is a call center in Mumbai, and find my memory is holding up—90 is indeed the dialing code for Turkey. "What about 252? Is that an area code?"

"Yes, a province . . . it's called Mu la or something," she says, trying her best to pronounce it. Turkey is a large country—bigger than Texas, with a population of over seventy million—and the name means nothing to me. I start to thank her, ready to ring off, when she says: "I don't know if it helps, but it says here that one of the main towns is a place on the Aegean coast. It's called Bodrum."

The word sends a jolt through my body, a frisson of fear that has been barely dissipated by the passage of so many years. Bodrum, she says—and the name washes ashore like the debris from some distant shipwreck. "Really?" I say calmly, fighting a tumult of thoughts. Then the part of my brain dealing with the present reminds me I'm only a guest on this investigation and relief floods in—I don't want anything to do with that part of the world again.

I make my way back to room 89. Bradley sees me and I tell him I figure that the piece of paper is the first part of a phone number all right but I'd forget about Canada. I explain about the calendar and he says he'd seen it earlier in the evening and it had worried him too.

"Bodrum? Where's Bodrum?" he asks.

"You need to get out more. In Turkey—one of the most fashionable summer destinations in the world."

"What about Coney Island?" he asks straight-faced.

"A close call," I tell him, picturing the harbor packed with extravagant yachts, the elegant villas, a tiny mosque nestled in the hills, cafés with names like Mezzaluna and Oxygen awash with hormones and ten-dollar cappuccinos.

"You've been there?" Bradley asks. I shake my head—there are some things the government won't let me talk about.

"No," I lie. "Why would she be calling someone in Bodrum?" I wonder aloud, changing the subject.

Bradley shrugs, unwilling to speculate, preoccupied. "The big guy's done some good work too," he reports, pointing at Petersen on the other side of the room. "It wasn't a student ID Alvarez found in the manager's file—fake name, of course, but it was a New York library card."

"Oh good," I say without much interest, "an intellectual."

"Not really," he replies, "according to their database she only borrowed one book in a year." He pauses, looks at me hard. "Yours."

I stare back at him, robbed of words. No wonder he was preoccupied. "She read my book?" I manage to say finally.

"Not just read it, studied it I'd say," he answers. "Like you said—you hadn't seen many as professional as this. Now we know why— the missing teeth, the antiseptic spray, it's all in your book, isn't it?"

My head tilts back as the full weight of it hits me. "She took stuff from different cases, used it as a manual—how to kill someone, how to cover it up."

"Exactly," Ben Bradley says and, for one of the few times ever, he smiles. "I just want to say thanks—now I've got to chase you-byproxy, the best in the world."


If you want to know the truth, my book about investigative techniques was pretty obscure—the sort of thing, as far as I could tell, that defied all publishing theory: once most people put it down, they couldn't pick it up again.

Yet, among the small cadre of professionals at whom it was aimed, it caused a seismic shock. The material went out on the edge of technology, of science, of credibility even. But on closer examination not even the most hardened skeptics could maintain their doubts—every case I cited included those tiny details, that strange patina of circumstance and motivation, that allows good investigators to separate the genuine from the fake.

A day after the book's release a flurry of questions began ricocheting around the closed world of top-flight investigators. How the hell was it that nobody had heard of any of these cases? They were like communiqués from another planet, only the names changed to protect the guilty. And, even more importantly, who the hell had written it?

I had no intention of ever letting anyone find out. Due to my former work I had more enemies than I cared to think about and I didn't want to start my car engine one morning and end up as a handful of cosmic dust running rings around the moon. If any reader of the book was to inquire about the background of the so-called author, all they would find was a man who had died recently in Chicago. One thing was certain: I didn't write it for fame or money.

I told myself I did it because I had solved crimes committed by people working at the outer limits of human ingenuity and I thought other investigators might find some of the techniques I had pioneered useful. And that was true—up to a point. On a deeper level, I'm still young— hopefully with another, real, life in front of me—and I think the book was a summing up, a way of bidding a final farewell to my former existence.

For almost a decade I was a member of our country's most secret intelligence organization, working so deep in shadow that only a handful of people even knew of our existence. The agency's task was to police our country's intelligence community, to act as the covert world's internal affairs department. To that extent, you might say, we were a throwback to the Middle Ages. We were the ratcatchers.

Although the number of people employed by the twenty-six publicly acknowledged—and eight unnamed—US intelligence organizations is classified, it is reasonable to say that over one hundred thousand people came within our orbit. A population of that size meant the crimes we investigated ran the gamut—from treason to corruption, murder to rape, drug dealing to theft. The only difference was that some of the perpetrators were the best and brightest in the world.

The group entrusted with this elite and highly classified mission was established by Jack Kennedy in the early months of his administration. After a particularly lurid scandal at the CIA—the details of which still remain secret—he apparently decided members of the intelligence community were as subject to human frailty as the population in general. More so, probably.

In normal circumstances, the FBI would have acted as the shadow world's investigator-at-large—under the perfumed fist of J. Edgar Hoover, however, that agency was anything but normal. Giving him the power to investigate the spooks would have been—well, you might as well have let Saddam loose in the arms factory. For this reason Kennedy and his brother created an agency that was given, by virtue of its responsibilities, unprecedented power. Established by an executive order it also became one of only three agencies to report directly to the president without congressional oversight. Don't bother asking about the other two—both of them are also forbidden by law from being named.

In the rarefied atmosphere where those with the highest security clearances reside, people at first disparaged the new agency and its hard-charging mission. Delighted by their cleverness, they referred to it as the 11th Airborne Division—the cavalry, in other words. Few of them expected it to be successful but as the agency's impressive reputation grew, they didn't find it quite so funny.

As if by common agreement, one part of the name gradually faded until the entire intelligence community referred to it—in a tone of reverence— simply as The Division. It's not vanity when I say that many of those who worked for it were brilliant. They had to be—some of The Division's targets were the most highly skilled covert operators the shadow world has ever seen. Years of training had taught these men and women how to lie and deflect, to say good-bye and leave not a trace behind, to have their hand in anything and their fingerprints on nothing. The result was that those who hunted them had to have even greater skills. The pressure for the catchers to keep one step ahead of the prey was enormous, almost unbearable at times, and it was no wonder that The Division had the highest suicide rate of any government agency outside of the Post Office.

It was during my last year at Harvard that I was recruited into its elite ranks without even realizing it. One of the agency's outriders—a pleasant woman with nice legs and a surprisingly short skirt who said she was a vice president with the Rand Corporation—came to Cambridge and talked to promising young graduates.

I had studied medicine for three years, majoring in the pharmacology of drugs—and I mean majoring. By day I learned about them in theory, on weekends I took a far more hands-on approach. It was while visiting a doctor in Boston, having read up on the symptoms of fibromyalgia and convincing him to write me a prescription for Vicodin, that I had an epiphany.

Say it was real, say right now it was me behind that desk dealing with the ailments—real and imagined—of the patients I had been quietly observing in the waiting room?

I realized it wasn't what afflicted people that interested me, it was what motivated them. I dropped out of medicine, enrolled in psychology, graduated magna cum laude, and was close to completing my doctorate.

As soon as it was finished, the lady in the short skirt was offering twice the starting salary of any other employer and what appeared to be almost limitless opportunities for research and advancement. As a result I spent the next year writing reports that would never be read, designing questionnaires never to be answered, before I discovered I wasn't really working for Rand at all. I was being observed, auditioned, assessed, and checked. Suddenly Short Skirt wasn't anywhere to be found.

Instead, two men—hard men—I had never seen before, or since, took me to a secure room in a nondescript building on an industrial estate just north of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. They made me sign a series of forms forbidding any kind of disclosure before telling me that I was being considered for a position in a clandestine intelligence service that they refused to name.

I stared at them, asking myself why they would have thought of me. But if I was honest, I knew the answer. I was a perfect candidate for the secret world. I was smart, I had always been a loner, and I was damaged deep in my soul.

My father walked out before I was born and was never seen again. Several years later my mother was murdered in her bedroom in our apartment just off Eight Mile Road in Detroit—like I said, there are some places I will remember all my life.

An only child, I finally washed up with adoptive parents in Greenwich, Connecticut—twenty acres of manicured lawns, the best schools money could buy, the quietest house you've ever known. Their family seemingly complete, I guess Bill and Grace Murdoch tried their best, but I could never be the son they wanted.

A child without parents learns to survive: they work out early to mask what they feel and if the pain proves beyond bearing, to dig a cave in their head, and hide inside. To the world at large I tried to be what I thought Bill and Grace wanted and ended up being a stranger to them both.

Sitting in that room outside Langley I realized that taking on another identity, masking so much of who you are and what you feel, was ideal training for the secret world.

In the years that followed—the ones I spent secretly traveling the world under a score of different names—I have to say the best spooks I ever met had learned to live a double life long before they joined any agency.

They included closeted men in a homophobic world, secret adulterers with wives in the suburbs, gamblers, and addicts, alcoholics, and perverts. Whatever their burden, they were all long-practiced at making the world believe in an illusion of themselves. It was only a small step to put on another disguise and serve their government. I guess the two hard men sensed something of that in me. Finally, they got to the part of their questioning that dealt with illegality. "Tell us about drugs," they said.

I remembered what somebody once said about Bill Clinton—he never met a woman he didn't like. I figured it wouldn't be helpful to tell them I felt the same way about drugs. I denied even a passing knowledge, thankful I had never adopted the reckless lifestyle that usually accompanies their use. I'd made it a secret life and kept it hidden by following my own rules—I only ever got fucked up alone, I didn't try and score at bars or clubs, I figured party drugs were for amateurs, and the idea of driving around an open-air drug market sounded like a recipe to get shot.

It worked—I had never been arrested or questioned about it—and so, having already successfully lived one secret life, it now gave me the confidence to embrace another. When they stood up and wanted to know how long I would need to consider their offer I simply asked for a pen.

So that was the way of it—I signed their Memorandum of Engagement in a windowless room on a bleak industrial estate and joined the secret world. If I gave any thought to the cost it would exact, the ordinary things I would never experience or share, I certainly don't recall it.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 69 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 5, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I Am Pilgrim is a deeply engaging thriller by Terry Hayes. It's

    I Am Pilgrim is a deeply engaging thriller by Terry Hayes. It's filled with everything I love about thrillers - great characters, a frightening scenario, the slow and unrelenting build of suspense, and a deeply layered story.

    Pilgrim is brilliant but so is Saracen, the person he is trying to track down to avoid a disaster of epic proportions. Watching Pilgrim's mind work is a real joy. He's clever and inventive. He is the first to admit to his shortcomings. He does make mistakes. He's not omniscient, but when it comes to investigating he has no peer. He puts things together is ways that are remarkable yet explainable (and are explained). This adds a great deal of depth and veracity to the novel. We get to see how Pilgrim thinks. He also works hard. He hunts down clues. He's a man of action when necessary.

    The Saracen is also very intelligent. His life history is slowly shown to the reader throughout the novel. The reader is privy to why he's become single-minded in his quest to bring down the United States. The Saracen is very, very patient. He is one man, more or less off the grid, planning unimaginable destruction. The plan he eventually concocts appears frighteningly real which heightens the intensity of the novel.

    In addition to trying to stop the Saracen, Pilgrim is also figuring out a couple of murders that are unrelated to the Saracen plot. I enjoyed this part of the story as well because it gave me additional opportunities to see Pilgrim in action and see how his mind works.

    I Am Pilgrim is a beautifully written novel with excellent pacing, wonderful twists and turns and plenty of action. The story not only switches back and forth between Pilgrim and Saracen, but there are flashbacks to Pilgrim's past. The reader gets to learn quite a bit about Pilgrim's life and who he is. Hayes handles this back and forth and the shifting story lines skillfully. There is a very strong cast of well-developed supporting characters who help or hinder Pilgrim in various ways.

    I Am Pilgrim is a nail-biter. Even after 600+ pages I was disappointed that the novel ended. I wanted keep reading about Pilgrim and to be in his mind a bit more. If you enjoy well-crafted, exciting espionage thrillers this is an absolute must read.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2014

    Unbelievable novel.  If you like Ludlum or early Tom Clancy - yo

    Unbelievable novel.  If you like Ludlum or early Tom Clancy - you have found a new author to follow.   I recommend you purchase this book and take a couple days off to read it.  An astounding read and one of the best.  Exceptional work and I cannot wait  for the author's next novel!

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2014

    Must read

    I have never written a review until i read this book. Must have!! Finally a real novel with depth. No skipping of pages like i have done with baldacci, cussler, and even clancy. I will be buying his next book as soon as it comes out.


    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 27, 2014

    This is not a great book, and the multiple positive reviews are

    This is not a great book, and the multiple positive reviews are out of line with the actual material. May be with a decent editor, it might have been average, but as it is, it's a mess. There are factual errors that should have been corrected - for example, on 9/11, the bridges to NY did NOT reopen that night for inbound traffic, that took a week. Another glaring error is that the lead baddie starts the book with 2 sisters, but by part 4, has a sister and a brother - which is it? A good editor, or even a mediocre one, would have spotted that incongruity. Then there is the ludicrous chase inside a boat yard, where the lead "good" guy has to jump an 18 foot gap from roof to roof - very specific, hardly believable - but once he narrowly grabs on to the arrival roof, suddenly STILL has a remote control device in his hand. Really? How did that grabbing leap happen, does he have a secret third hand? There is also a strange view of women - a female character is judged as smarter than she appears because she has simple observations to report - but because she wears makeup and stillettos, she was judged dumb. This 1950s view of women is really startingly jarring with reality, again, even a dumb editor would have noticed. This poor book has too many strange coincidences, too many things tied together, that it breaks any thread of reality. It is also full of chase and fighting scenes that are made for a film, but just drag the book down by the waste of time reading them, they go nowhere. It is also strange that, like so many superheroes, the lead character has to have limitless wealth, oh come on now. Then, in part 3, we are treated to the oddball character that poor filmmakers, those with no imagination just greed, love - the disaffected man of music who is frankly abused by the lead "good' guy, then they become best buds. The lame plotline destroys the book, because there is no tension once this annoying little vignette is wrapped up with what the music man does on NPR years later. Oh, so the world does NOT end, and NPR is still going strong after the supposed viral apocalypse? Gee, thanks for the After School Special wrap up, but we see there are still 100 pages to go. Forget about any real suspense, becaurse the odd ball has a future, the book does NOT. Really, really disappointing on SO many levels. Clearly, this is a film script that was rightly rejected, and is a terrible book because it insults the intelligence of the reader. If you want to see how a thriller should NOT be written, if you want to see examples of gender and ethnic discrimination, if you want to see how a book fails to sustain its most important plotlines, then read this one. Otherwise, skip it and be glad that you did not waste your time on a poorly written, unedited mess.

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2014

    Excellent read!

    I tried to make this book last but I could not stop reading it; will recommend to everyone and look foward to other books by this new author

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2014


    I have never written a book review before. I read over 300 books a year. This is the best book I have ever read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2014

    I haven't read a page-turner this gripping for a long time. I n

    I haven't read a page-turner this gripping for a long time. I neglected other priorities, stayed up past my usual bed time and read over lunch at work a couple days in a row just to find out what would happen next. Great read! There are lots of specifics about the book I really liked, but those would be spoilers. So, just pick up a copy and enjoy the ride.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2014

    I read a lot of books. So I have gotten a little picky over the

    I read a lot of books. So I have gotten a little picky over the years. So when I find a book that is pretty remarkable, I have to say something about it. Especially when it is a first novel.
    I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes is such a book. Oh My Gosh! I remember seeing this book in an airport bookstore in Denver a couple months ago. The cover wasn't spectacular but for some reason I picked it up and read the blurbs and the synopsis and filed it away in the "to be read" box in my head.
    Fast forward to a week ago. I am in my little local library just seeing if there is anything new that would keep me busy and I noticed in the large print new releases, I Am Pilgrim. My memory kicked in and I remembered that I had wanted to give it a try. Large print didn't bother me, my eyes probably need it.
    So, I took it home. I was in the middle of reading another favorite author, Terry Brooks, but right before bed I picked up Pilgrim and read the first page. And the second, and the third and realized very quickly that I had found something special.
    It is a rare thing for this to happen. For me, only a handful of times. The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, a very little known book by Martin Davies titled, The Conjurer's Bird, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
    Now, I add Mr. Hayes to the list. There is a depth to this book that rises it above most thrillers. A book I will actually remember as opposed to many that are just so much fluff. James Patterson comes to mind. There are some great thriller authors out there, Ben Coes, Marc Cameron, the late Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Matthew Dunn, Daniel Silva, Richard Doetsch, Greg Rucka. I read everything that is produced by these fine authors, but the only one that comes close to Hayes is Silva.Pilgrim begins with a brutal murder scene in New York City, a emotionally and physically wounded homicide detective and a brilliant investigator who has no name. From this beginning we learn all about this man, what he has done and where he has been. The action ranges from the dark days of 9/11 to the corridors of power in Washington DC, a farmhouse in North Dakota and to the mountains of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan as well as a city square and a beheading in Saudi Arabia which leads to a birth of a new kind of terrorist that will be hunted to prevent the deaths of millions of people.
    Hayes brilliantly weaves the histories and locales of all of these disparate entities into a novel that at times you long to put down, but can't. Watching the matching of wits between the Pilgrim and the Saracen is a thing to behold.
    This book and Mr. Hayes are the real deal. I am ready for the next one.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2014

    An Excellent Debut Novel

    Terry Hayes is a well known screenwriter and this is his first novel. And what a debut. The Pilgrim (a name adopted by our hero in the book) has “retired” from a super secret department of intelligence known only as The Division. The Division was disbanded after 9/11 and this man of many names is living in Paris when a series of events causes him to return to the U.S. to protect his former identity. While in NY, he is observing the investigation of a murder in lower Manhattan. He quickly realizes that the murder is somehow tied to a book he authored under a pen name dealing with modern investigative techniques. Among the forensic evidence is a charred piece of paper with a set of numbers that don’t make any sense. And the murder is somehow connected to the main threat posed by the other main character in the book, code named the Saracen, which means Arab, or a Muslim who fights Christians, or simply, nomad. His formation begins watching his father executed in Saudi Arabia and progresses through the Afghan-Russian war to current post-9/11 terrorism. The Saracen has devised a massive bio-terrorism threat, and the development of this thread is detailed and disturbing. When the threat is recognized by the government, the Pilgrim is recruited back into service. He is not the perfect hero, and there are many twists and turns that will get your pulse beating rapidly. Despite being over 600 pages, the development of the story does not pause, coming to a heart pounding conclusion, and of course, the possibility of a sequel (although I would not bet my life on it). Don’t miss this one.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 15, 2014

    Very entertaining. Great Vacation Read

    I loved this book. The writing was a bit trite at times. The wry comments made by the main character at the end of almost every chapter got a bit old. However, the book was very suspenseful with lots of twists and turns. It also took you across several countries investigating a crime (and a potential major crisis). I love the international flavor of the book. Overall - I highly recommend it as a vacation or weekend read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2014

    Couldn't put this book down -- storytelling at its best!

    Couldn't put this book down -- storytelling at its best!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2014

    Best book that I have read in 2014 so far and I read a lot of bo

    Best book that I have read in 2014 so far and I read a lot of books including serious fiction.  So so so good.  I've been telling everyone about this book.  I can't  for the author's next book!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2014


    This is one of the best most thorougb books i have ever read,it rates up there with steven king in the details.I cant wait for the next one

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2014


    I liked the synopsis when this book popped on my list of recommendation and I preordered it knowing that is not a quick read. What an awesome and fascinating book, well researched and mesmerizing. Before long the pages flew and I was left wanting more. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 11, 2014

    Great read!!! This is an exceptional book. I haven't read a spy

    Great read!!! This is an exceptional book. I haven't read a spy thriller in years. I'm not even sure why I picked it. But boy am I glad I did. All of the characters are finely drawn. This is a complicated, deep plot. But the writing is so good that it just carries you along. I couldn't put it down. And I had a knitting project I needed to get done. Didn't matter. The knitting had to wait. I'm recommending this book to,everyone I know. Can't wait for Terry Hayes' next book. I wish I could tell him personally how much I enjoyed his first book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2014


    I absolutely loved this book- fast-paced, and extremely complex

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2014


    If you have a strong stomach, feel free to read this book. I am saying this because the first chapters are pretty gruesome with eyes being cut out and heads being chopped off. He goes into more detail then is necessary to get the point across. The story gets confusing at times because the author tells it through his eyes one minute and the next it's through somebody else's eyes.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 4, 2014

    If you want to read a book that will leave you breathless, send

    If you want to read a book that will leave you breathless, send your heart into palpitations and turning pages more quickly than you ever have before, you must read this story. This read is not in my typical genre but I am grateful that I purchased it and I know I will read it again.  Stupendous is an understatement and I will watch for Terry Hayes to continue his journey of story writing.  Simply phenomenal. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2014

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. I have been an

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. I have been an avid reader since childhood and nearing sixty years of age can attest to reading more books in one day than anyone i have ever met.  Terry Hayes is  the best and now saddened that  I may never read anything that comes close to this true page-turner. I am Pilgrim has a depth that is unparalleled by any other novel in the last 25 years. Bravo to Mr. Hayes!
    A fan forever... PJA

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2014


    Rtt"3 j bt ;*/:ttg hujhunnk

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)