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195 of 227 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bond meets Reacher: a fantastic read, 27 July 2013
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This review is from: I Am Pilgrim (Hardcover)
If you spend enough time at literary festivals, you come to fear and loathe the 'goody bag' - a delightfully marketed sling-bag full of books you never want to read and don't quite know what to do with.

Until it isn't that: the goody bag at Harrogate Crime Fest last weekend contained a small 'taster' booklet that offered the first chapter of I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. I read it late on Saturday night, bought the book on Sunday and started reading it on Monday. I finished it late last night and it's been a fantastic week's read: a big, solid, chunky, fast-paced, rip-roaring thriller, the love child of a manic union between Jack Reacher and James Bond.

The pace and international flavour shouldn't be a surprise: from the start, this reads like the book of the film and that film will be a blockbuster. This is a debut novel, and (sorry, this is a cliche, but it's true) an astonishing feat that makes sense when we know that the author has been a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, covered the Watergate scandal and went on to be a screenwriter on such luminaries as Mad Max 2, Payback and Bangkok Hilton. So when we have Bondian 'hero escapes from insuperable odds' scenes set in giant warehouses with ships on gantries being sent hither and thither and our hero hanging by one arm, desperately trying not to be recognised by the Turkish police... it's easy to imagine it on a big screen with all the action and adrenaline and testosterone.

But the book isn't all that: the premise is clever. The narrator, whom we know primarily as Scott Murdoch - although we know that wasn't his birth name - is a member of the US's 'Department' - the spies who spy on spies - a kind of Military police for the CIA - staffed with people so deniable that even the department's existence is held secret. Pilgrim (as he becomes) starts of well by executing the corrupt leader in broad daylight in Moscow's Red Square and his life goes downhill from there until the point where he's asked to be the lone 'Pathfinder' sent out to Turkey to discover all he can about a man who seems to be planning a massive bio-terror attack. Actually, it's *the* worst bio-terror attack you could imagine: engineered smallpox which will rip through the world's population and reduced it to a fraction of what it was at the start.

Woven through the spy-hunting-terrorist plot is a secondary spy-helping-NYPD plot which follows the investigation of a murder in a grimy New York hotel. What makes it different was that both the victim and - so our hero thinks - the perpetrator were women. So we have a possible lesbian subplot which is always entertaining and certainly becomes so here.

The two plots inevitably collide in a small Turkish town, but not before we've been to Paris, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bulgaria and seen side plots in London and Thailand. It's a vast, intricate, wonder of a book, full of clever use of technology and - I'm sure - a lot of research into how smallpox might rationally be spread. It also sounds a loud and clear warning: if the US government's planning is as woefully inadequate as the books suggests, then our civilisation's days are numbered.

I'm sure this will be a stellar hit, but get it early and be one of the pathfinders: It's a fantastic, fun, high-adrenaline read for the summer: just the thing to fill days on the beach or evenings at home.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Oct 2013 16:47:48 BDT
D. Norman says:
Hello Manda,
I flinched at the daunting 700 pages. Until I read your review. Which was very good. Sometimes though, the balance hangs on simple factors. Hence, your `manic union between Jack Reacher and James Bond. `
Sold. :-)
Thank you

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jun 2014 13:02:34 BDT
Oldbiker says:
Thanks Manda,been thinking about this one.....your review has sold me on it.
Loved the original bourne books,this sounds like my kind of thing.

Posted on 23 Jul 2014 15:29:48 BDT
wow, had me hooked as soon as you mentioned Jack Reacher + James Bond! Thank you, will definitely read

Posted on 31 Jul 2014 20:01:21 BDT
Read it on holiday - a fabulous read, has to be one of the best thrillers I have read for a long time,

Posted on 23 Feb 2016 16:13:35 GMT
Jason Miller says:
I'm half way through this at the moment. Absolutely brilliant so far. I actually have trouble putting it down!
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