Alex Rider: never say die by Anthony Horowitz

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Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406377040
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Spies, Thriller, Action adventure, Suspense. What a read! all the trademarks of a highly sophisticated adult thriller are here to delight, entrance and entertain. Hard to put down, I was engrossed with Horowitz's ability to get Alex Rider into the most dire of circumstances then extricate him with flair and just a little suspension of belief. I found myself saying, 'oh come on' with disbelief at some of his escapades, but it is all written with such tongue in cheek awareness, that I had to remind myself that it was just a story. And a brilliant one at that, the eleventh in the series.
Alex has been sent to San Francisco with the Pleasure family, ostensibly to start a new life after the deaths of his uncle and mentor, Ian Rider, and friend, Jack Starbright.
But he receives a cryptic phone message. Knowing Jack as well as he does, he sets out on a journey to find her, convinced that she is still alive. He flies to Cairo returning to the place where he was hideously tortured and forced to watch Jack being killed. Here he meets again some of the thugs he met before, but MI6 is also on his trail, wanting him to keep out of their business, and return to San Francisco. But again he evades them all, going to the South of France to find a ship. Sneaking on board he fights for his life with the impressive Dragana Novak who had recently stolen a Lightning Strike helicopter from a demonstration in the south of England, ready for the Grimaldi brothers to use in their outrageous plan.
And this is only half way through.
Fifteen year old Alex has been used by MI6 before, but they feel morally bound to keep him safe and in school, so the continuous tension between them makes a neat contrast with the journey he is actually taking.
The plan to use the massive helicopter to steal a school bus full of children with obscenely wealthy parents is mind boggling, as Alex works out just a little too late what the brothers plan to do. He leaps from the car's ejector seat grabbing the undercarriage of the bus and is then carried into Wales where the children are kept captive in a disused coal works. Alex of course, saves the day with panache and not a little skill, and at the end where he is about to be sent back to school, Mrs Jones at MI6 realises that he is the only person who can solve her current problem. The next installment of this highly entertaining series awaits.
Fran Knight