What’s it all about?:
Can you commit the perfect crime?
Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.
But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.
What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.
What did I think?:
I’ve seen this book around now for quite a while and while being intrigued by it, I wasn’t hell-bent on reading it after skimming through the synopsis. Then Richard and Judy picked it to be one of their Summer Book Club 2014 reads which pushed me to read it a bit sooner than I might have done, so a big thanks to them as I’m really glad I read this book. At just over 700 pages, it isn’t a quick read and some parts were slightly heavier than others so it took me a bit longer to get into it. However, by about 150 pages in I was hooked, line and sinker. The story begins in New York, where detective Ben Bradley has been called to the scene of a very interesting murder. The unfortunate victim has been laid in a bath of acid, her hands weighted down with telephone directories and all her teeth forcibly removed. This isn’t some form of torture though, it was a meticulous plan to remove all traces of the victims identity, a trick the murderer picked up by reading a non-fiction book about the perfect crimes, penned by an author whom since writing the book had passed away. This is all a cover story though as the author, a nameless ghost of a man who is known only under the code name Pilgrim, is alive and well and works for the secret service, answerable only to the President in a department so protected it is not even admitted to exist.
By doing some incredibly tricky detective work of his own, Ben Bradley manages to track down Pilgrim, desperate for his advice on what seems to be a perfect murder, with no clear trace of the perp. This eerie little mystery isn’t the only thing on Pilgrim’s plate however, he is himself chasing a ghost of his own – a man he refers to as Saracen. Saracen grew up in Saudi Arabia and when his father decides to make some choice negative comments about the Saudi royal family he is publicly beheaded which begins to sow the seeds of fanaticism and revenge in little Saracen’s mind. After much meticulous planning, the Saracen prepares to unleash the largest bio-terror alert on America ever, using a strain of the smallpox virus which is extremely contagious, resistant to vaccination and has a 100% fatality rate. It’s going to be quite a tricky business for Pilgrim to track the Saracen down before the American population is exposed to the virus, the clock is ticking and so far, the Saracen does not seem to have slipped up once in revealing his identity or leaving a trace of his activities. The reader is taken from Saudi Arabia to Paris, Greece and Turkey with some inter-related plot lines and characters as we join Pilgrim on his mission to save America from the deadliest terror attack it has ever seen.
So, as you may have already guessed, I loved this book! I think it was absolute genius to put so many different characters, events and incidents together so seamlessly, without them becoming scrambled and over-complicated whilst still holding the readers attention. The Saracen was one of the best villains I have met in literature, but I also enjoyed the fact that he made him “human” also, which is essential if we are to believe in a character. Pilgrim himself wasn’t exactly Superman (although he gave it a good shot!). he has flaws, he makes mistakes, he can be tricked but crucially he’s the person you want to root for. When I had sorted out all the different strands of the plot in my mind, I became completely enmeshed in this fantastic story which held a relentless pace, energy and excitement right to the very end. I read in another review that this was going to be the start of a series, and I really hope so – I’m quite desperate to see what Pilgrim does next! And this is Terry Hayes debut novel? Well I’ve now got huge expectations for this author in the future.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):