Miniature review due to absence of Internet and wifi. In fact, only now possible because phone can – sometimes – get some reception…
There was quite considerable hype about this book online which led to my getting it: phrases like Bondesque and Bournesque appear to have been coined in order to describe it.
It is a commitment of a read at well in excess of 750 pages! But it also rattles along at a very good pace: it is structured in four parts of fourteen, fifty-one, seventy-two and fifty-two chapters in each. That makes one hundred and eighty-nine chapters of four pages each. Not a very scientific approach – nor a terribly literary one – but an indication of pace.
Personally, I thought Part One was the strongest: our narrator, Pilgrim, was called to a seedy motel to advise on a particularly unpleasant murder. It is written in an effective and familiar CSI-style: slick, professional and effective in what it does.
From this starting point, the narrative entwines various threads into a solid rope. We learn of Pilgrim’s own background as a member of a shadowy secret service investigating the secret services prior to 9/11 and the twin towers’ destruction; we learn about the backstory of a character known as The Saracen – a name that possesses somewhat chilling connotations of American demonisation of the Arab world. Pilgrim and The Saracen become embroiled in the sort of high stakes cat-and-mouse hunt across international borders to avert a huge terrorist threat to the USA.
Some reviews I’ve read have compared this with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It is not in that league by a long shot: Pilgrim is a far less engaging or damaged character that Lisbeth Salander; the writing is more slick but also more conventional and familiar and perhaps cliched.
In conclusion, this was a decent, competent and effective espionage thriller. There were no real surprises. No really compelling characters. A significant hint of Americanism which, depending on your tastes, could jar – it did with me! Overall… a classic summertime boys’ beach read.