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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Concerns with I Am Pilgrim

Terry Hayes
As set out in my last post I consider I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes an excellent thriller that is going to be a best seller. While a powerful book I did have some issues with the book. While I do not consider the following discussion to contain spoilers it does provide more information about aspects of the book that readers may prefer not to know before reading the book. Thus, be warned not to keep reading this post, if you do not want some detail about the book.

My first issue is Hayes not giving Pilgrim a real name. With multiple changes of name in the book reflecting his life as a secret agent I could only think of him as Pilgrim. I thought Robert Ludlum was brilliant with creating Jason Bourne and then having him learn it was not his real name. I would have preferred Pilgrim having an actual name by which he was known through the book.

My second concern with I Am Pilgrim is likely only going to be an issue for a lawyer but it grates upon me. A motive for a murder in the book is that the wife of a young billionaire will be limited under a pre-nuptial agreement to very modest cash payments if she divorces from her husband but if he dies she will inherit his estate.

What aggravates me about the scenario is that, in real life, any wealthy man or woman who is requiring a pre-nuptial agreement from their fiancé to protect assets in a divorce is going to prepare a will that echoes the pre-nuptial agreement for his or her lawyer will advise the client must deal with the end of the marriage by death as well as by divorce.

It is completely implausible that the wealthy client would either forgot about doing a new will or did not get around to a new will. Their lawyer, most likely team of lawyers for a billionaire, will make sure a new will is not overlooked and will equally ensure they get it done at the same time as the pre-nup.

The whole story line could have been rendered far more realistic had the billionaire husband taken out substantial life insurance, possibly even double benefits in the case of accidental death, to protect the fiancé if he should die unexpectedly.

My third concern is the ending. For those readers who love Hollywood endings it will be a satisfying conclusion. To me it was the weakest part of the book.

After writing a sophisticated thriller with a wickedly clever threat to America, Hayes chose an ending that is a clone of most Hollywood thrillers.

The actions and answers of the bad guy terrorist, when confronted by Pilgrim, are not credible. The Saracen, a terrorist who is a hardened holy Islamic warrior, would not have retreated from sacrifice.

Hayes had a chance to write an ending that could either have confounded the expectations of readers by not being the traditional Hollywood conclusion or an ending that was more realistic Hollywood. While Jeffery Deaver sometimes puts too many twists at the end of his books they are real.

My fourth issue is length. I understood the British edition weighed in at almost 700 pages. The American edition is 607 pages. While I thoroughly enjoyed Pilgrim’s pursuit of Saracen I believe it would have been a better book with 150 less pages. A significant amount of information could have gone into another book with Pilgrim as the hero without weakening this book.

While I do have the concerns outlined above I have no hesitation in recommending the book.


  1. That's an interesting point about the will, Bill, and one that wouldn't have occurred to me: as I've said before, we rely on you for that POV. I think it could have been shorter, and I liked the way it was a series of sections each with a setup and a quite exciting climax, then moving on to a new area... overall I'm not sure how memorable or convincing it was, but I was very caught up while I was reading it.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I also liked the sectional approach. With a few tweaks to his plotting I think his next thriller can be exceptional.

  2. Thanks for sharing these concerns Bill, especially the legal one that the rest of us wouldn't know the details of. I often get that way when I find technology issues being clunkily handled because that is my field.

    Even though you do recommend this I'm still not tempted - the length is the big factor for me - I am on a brevity kick - not just because I don't have the time to read such long books but also because I do believe iit takes more skill to write concisely. Of the couple of dozen or so books I would count as "favourites" there is only one that weighs in like a brick and I haven't read it for 20 years so maybe I wouldn't even like it anymore.

    1. Bernadette: Thanks for the comment. I think bloggers with knowledge in an area should apply it in their reviews.

      My concept of brevity has expanded. I used to think 150 pages was brief. Now I am consider anything under 300 pages brief.

      In one area, of which I now read little, which is historic fiction I think long sagas can be great.

  3. Bill - Thanks for your insights on this. I appreciate the perspective, too. As Bernadette says, not being an attorney means one doesn't always think of those issues but as you bring it up, it makes a lot of sense. And please, spare me Hollywood endings. I think that would really bother me. I'm glad you enjoyed the book despite its weaknesses though.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the insights you bring to your thoughts on books. Hollywood endings must work for alot of people. I see little sign they are becoming less frequent. I hope you read the book. I would be interested in your perspective.

  4. I was ambivalent about reading this book, and as someone who is not a particular fan of thrillers, especially dealing with espionage or "terrorism," I am tipped over in the NOT category now. It's not my type of book.

    Also, the length does turn me off. Few writers can keep a book interesting for hundreds of pages. And I also think that 300 pages or less is a short read, but 300-350 pages is my usual preference, although I've read a few that are longer that I liked: Sara Paretsky's Critical Mass, J.D. Rowling/Richard Galbraith's The Cuckoo's Calling, John Grisham's Sycamore Row.

    1. Kathy D: Thanks for the comment. I am happier at 300 - 350 pages though I can occasionally enjoy a longer book.

  5. Bill, now that I have finished the book and my review I have come back to read this. You are right about the will. That did seem strange to me while reading the book, although I know from personal experience that people make a lot of mistakes and do inconsistent things. But I do think you are right about that, and it did not register much with me because I just enjoyed the storytelling so much.

    The ending is very unrealistic but I expected that so it did not bother me either. After I read the book, I checked reviews on Goodreads and there were many 5 stars reviews but also a lot of reviews in the other direction.

    I enjoyed the storytelling and liked the main character (and some of the peripheral characters) so much that those elements outweighed any niggles. Moira brings up a good point about how memorable it is. I do think I will remember the book fondly but not sure that I would reread it.

  6. TracyK: Thanks for taking the time to come back to the post and add your thoughts after reading the book. I enjoyed your review.

    I thought Harris wrote a strong book but it could have been a great book had he not succumbed to the Hollywood ending and done some editing to shorten the book. The book deserved a better conclusion.

    Harris is very skilled at drawing the reader through the book. I look forward to his next book hoping the strengths in characters remain and the weakness in ending is improved.