About The Book

“I Am Pilgrim is simply one of the best suspense novels I’ve read in a long time.” —David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A big, breathless tale of nonstop suspense.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“The pages fly by ferociously fast. Simply unputdownable.” —Booklist

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.

Pilgrim.

Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for I Am Pilgrim includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

 

Introduction

An intelligent and taut debut thriller that depicts the collision course between two geniuses, one a tortured hero and one a determined terrorist.

Pilgrim is the code name for a world-class and legendary secret agent. He’s the adopted son of a wealthy, Waspy family and was once the head of an internal affairs force for US intelligence services. He held the vaunted title Rider of the Blue, which he acquired after he was forced to assassinate his turncoat predecessor in Moscow.

His adversary is a man known only to the reader as the Saracen. As a young boy, the Saracen sees his dissident father beheaded in a Saudi Arabian public square. But the event marks him for life and creates a burning desire to destroy the special relationship between the US and the kingdom. Everything in the Saracen’s life from this moment forward will be in service to jihad.

At the novel’s opening, we find ourselves in a seedy apartment near Ground Zero. A woman lies facedown in a pool of acid, features melted off her face, teeth missing, fingerprints gone. The room has been treated with DNA-eradicating antiseptic spray. All the techniques are pulled directly from Pilgrim’s book, a cult classic of forensic science written under a pen name.

In offering the NYPD some casual assistance with the case, Pilgrim gets pulled back into the intelligence underground. What follows is a thriller that jockeys between astonishingly detailed character study and breakneck globetrotting. The author shifts effortlessly from Pilgrim’s hidden life of leisure in Paris to the Arab’s squalid warrior life in Afghanistan, from the hallways of an exclusive Swiss bank to the laboratories of a nefarious biotech facility in Syria.

The inevitable encounter between Pilgrim and the Saracen will come in Turkey, around the murder of a wealthy American, in a thrilling, twisting, beautifully orchestrated finale.

 

If you liked I Am Pilgrim you might also like:

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Code of Conduct by Brad Thor

Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kannon

 

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Discuss the structure of I Am Pilgrim. Why do you think Hayes chose to begin his story with a crime scene in a New York apartment? Were you surprised by how the opening scene fit into the plot?

2. Before Terry Hayes wrote I Am Pilgrim, he was a successful screenwriter. Were there any scenes in I Am Pilgrim that you found particularly cinematic? Which ones and why? If you were casting I Am Pilgrim, who would you choose to play the role of Pilgrim and of the Saracen?

3. What did you think of the Saracen? What do you think led to his radicalization? Explain your answer.

4. I Am Pilgrim begins with the line, “There are places I’ll remember all my life.” (page 3) Discuss the places that Pilgrim names. Why are they memorable to him? Are there any places that are particularly significant to you? What are they? Tell your book club about them.

5. S. Krishna’s Books writes that I Am Pilgrim “features . . . an expansive, ambitious storyline as it sets the standard for the post-9/11 spy thriller.” How do the events of 9/11 factor into the plot of I Am Pilgrim? Many of the characters were affected greatly by events of that day. Who are they and how were they affected?

6. In interviews, Hayes has cited Stephen King, Khaled Hosseini, David Baldacci, and Vince Flynn as writers he admires. How do you think these writers inspired Hayes while he was writing I Am Pilgrim? Do you see any similarities between I Am Pilgrim and their works? Discuss them with your book club.

7. Describe Pilgrim’s friendship with Ben Bradley. How did they become friends? In what ways, if any, are the two men alike?

8. When I Am Pilgrim was published, it was praised by the Associated Press in a review that said, “The storytelling and a truly intriguing protagonist make I Am Pilgrim a contender for best-of-the-year lists.” Did you think Pilgrim was an intriguing protagonist? Why was he such a compelling character? Is there anything you wish you knew about him? What?

9. What was your initial impression of Leyla Cumali? Did your opinion of her change? If so, how and why?

10. When asked if his writing took unexpected turns, Hayes said, “Did the book take unexpected turns? Oh boy, did it.” Were there any plot twists in I Am Pilgrim that were particularly shocking to you? Which ones and why? Were you surprised by the way I Am Pilgrim ended?
About The Author
Photograph (c) Kristin Hayes

Terry Hayes is the New York Times bestselling author of I Am Pilgrim and 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.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (May 2014)
  • Length: 624 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439177747

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Raves and Reviews

“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.”

– David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Mr. Hayes’s globe-trotting book has more kicks, twists and winks than anything of its dusty genre has provided in a long time. You will be happily surprised to find a new thriller franchise with brains to match its brawn.”

– Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"THRILLER OF THE WEEK. Delivers thrills and spills...A full tilt mix of Homeland, The Wire and The Bourne Ultimatum."

– Mail on Sunday

"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."

– Adam LeBor, The Times, UK

"I AM PILGRIM Is the Best Book of 2014"

– The Huffington Post

“The most exciting desert island read of the season…a big, breathless tale of nonstop suspense.”

– Janet Maslin, New York Times

“The pages fly by ferociously fast. Simply unputdownable.”

– Booklist

"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."

– Irish Independent

“Once you start this taut and muscular thriller, you won't be able to put it down.”

– Library Journal, starred review

“[A] powerful and formidably researched globe-spanning thriller.”

– Publisher's Weekly

"I Am Pilgrim is a twelve-course meal of a thriller.... A breathtaking accomplishment of a debut."

– Gregg Hurwitz, New York Times bestselling author of Tell No Lies

"The best book of 2014."

– Suspense Magazine

"Debut novelist Hayes brings well-refined storytelling chops to...[good] entertainment for readers with a penchant for mayhem, piles of bodies and a lethal biochemical agent or two."

– Kirkus Reviews

"The strongest [thriller] in years . . . a taut, global trek . . . a long and perfect pilgrimage. (Grade: A)"

– Cleveland Plain Dealer

“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.”

– The Hollywood Reporter

"Exhilarating...Hayes masterfully guides readers through an incredibly elaborate, drum-tight plot."

– Newsday

“A debut thriller reminiscent of John le Carre.”

– Wichita Eagle

“The storytelling and a truly intriguing protagonist make “I Am Pilgrim” a contender for best-of-the-year lists.”

– Associated Press

“I AM PILGRIM has all the elements of a blockbuster thriller.”

– Denver Post

"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.”

– Naples Daily News

"I Am Pilgrim features great character development and an expansive, ambitious storyline as it sets the standard for the post-9/11 spy thriller."

– S. Krishna Books

"High-octane."

– Parade

“Tom Clancy meets Robin Cook in a thriller that should find a place in many beach bags this summer.”

– Kirkus

“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.”

– Providence Journal

"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."

– Literary Review, UK

"The next 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'."

– The New York Post

"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."

– Kate White, New York Times bestselling author of EYES ON YOU

"'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."

– Brad Thor, New York Times bestselling author of ACT OF WAR

“An intriguing, multi-perspective thriller… the story made me almost miss my subway stop.”

– People Magazine

''Dude, freak out. That's my new Gone Girl. Gone Girl was the last book that I couldn't put down. Seriously, email me when you read it. You'll be five chapters in, and you'll look up and be like, 'Dude!'''

– Jimmy Fallon, Entertainment Weekly

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