Emily Bestler Books/Atria-Simon & Shuster, $26.99, 612 pages, ISBN 978-1-4391-7772-3
On occasion, a work of fiction comes along which can only be described as riveting. Enthralling, arresting, gripping, fascinating, absorbing, captivating, hypnotic, engrossing or spellbinding . . . but the single best and most descriptive word for MBR No. 181 is riveting. It will drill a hole into your consciousness, insert a red-hot bolt of dramatic tension, then pound it into place in your memory as one of the most exciting novels you have ever read . . . and the scary part, the part we haven’t mentioned yet . . . the plot could be tomorrow’s front page news.
I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes begins in New York City, one year after the Towers fall, with a police investigation into the death of a woman who’s found in a bathtub of acid: no face, no teeth, no fingerprints and therefore, no identity. In Saudi Arabia, a man is publicly beheaded as his thirteen year old son watches in horror. A notorious Syrian biotechnology expert is found eyeless in a junkyard, bound hand and foot, while being set upon by ravenous wild dogs. The remains of three kidnapped victims are found on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan, burnt and dumped in a quicklime pit and boiling with toxins. These are the elements that must be connected and correctly interpreted in order to prevent a monstrous, utterly horrific crime against humanity. The only one with even a slight chance of connecting all of the disparate, arcane and mystifying elements together and having a hope of preventing the greatest crime in history is an anonymous clandestine agent code-named Pilgrim who answers only to the man in charge of all US intelligence and the President of the United States. He’s a man whose real name is lost to the past and who carries the fate of the entire world in his hands. I am Pilgrim will enthrall you, entertain and scare you . . . ultimately it will change your worldview . . . it may even keep you awake in the darkest part of the night wondering when it will happen, hoping, just hoping and praying that there actually is a real Pilgrim out there. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya . . . this may be the best thriller ever written!