I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

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nobody’s ever been arrested for a murder;
they have only ever been arrested for not planning it properly.

I usually prefer my thrillers to crawl at me from the shadows, writhing with the anguish of dark deeds, so placing myself in the firing line of Terry Hayes’ breakneck 800 page bestseller was quite a welcome departure.

Code named Pilgrim, Scott Murdoch – one of several aliases; with this fellow the more you know, the less you know – is a retired secret agent as dubious as the murky underworld of American espionage he once inhabited. Scott Murdoch has seen some things – none of it pretty. As a favour to a friend, he offers his expert opinion on a bizarre, near perfect murder committed in a seedy Manhattan motel. This is the starting point of Hayes’ ambitious debut that criss-crosses between Murdoch’s post-9/11 New York, and the blistering deserts of the Middle East where a heinous crime against humanity is being formulated at the hands of the Saracen, a lone-man terrorist .

The Saracen’s plan is terrifying, an ingenious bio-warfare design deftly planned that could eradicate millions. Like Murdoch, he has numerous false identities, hiding in plain sight yet untraceable. And who better to find a man who does not exist than the most secret of secret agents? If Murdoch thought he could live out his secret services retirement peacefully, solving a bizarre New York murder at most, he would be very, very wrong. The past comes calling and Murdoch is in for a hell of a showdown as he hunts down the Saracen.

I really enjoyed the heck out of this book. The Saracen is probably the most frightening villain I’ve come across in ages – all the more because his bio-terror apocalypse feels scarily possible – and Murdoch who spews bone-dry wit while narrating his bloody undercover dealings and racing to save humanity, makes for a superb protagonist. The complex plot runs tight and epic with plenty of subplot and backstory to keep you compulsively turning the pages.

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