I’ve read several of Anthony Horowitz‘ books already and have enjoyed them very much. Point Blank is no exception. This is the 2nd novel in his Alex Rider spy series, and it is just as fast-paced and exciting as the others I’ve read. This episode begins by introducing us to Michael J. Roscoe, a New York City tycoon who is about to be murdered. Horowitz is quite up-front about it. We follow Roscoe as he enters Roscoe Towers, ascends to the 60th floor in his private elevator, and begins his work day. We then watch the assassin as he meticulously and calmly executes his plan, then tidies up leaving no trace of his existence behind him. But somewhere in London, England, Alan Blunt, the head of MI6, starts to piece together links between this murder, the suspicious death of ex-KGB head General Major Viktor Ivanov in the Black Sea, and Point Blanc Academy in the French Alps where both their sons were sent as a last chance to conform to their wealthy parents’ expectations. Enter: Alex Rider, 14 years old, nephew of a former (now deceased) spy, and an already-proven, resourceful espionage agent. Mission: infiltrate the school posing as the son of an extremely wealthy grocery magnate, find the connection, and get out in one piece to report back. With only a few special gadgets, a bullet-proof ski suit, and infrared night goggles, Alex joins 6 other “students” at the academy where only one of the boys, James, is friendly, and he’s sporting bruises from being beaten up by some of the other boys. Armed guards patrol the “school” day and night, and two of the floors in the building (which is half castle, half chalet) are out of bounds. As Alex soon discovers, just touching the doors to them sets off alarms and brings guards on the run brandishing sub-machine guns.
The head of the academy, Dr. Grief, and his assistant, Mrs. Stellenbosch, are the only teachers. They strike Alex as strange, to say the least, and the other students all exhibit a sameness and politeness very odd in boys who only a few short weeks ago were termed rebellious and uncooperative. What exactly is going on here? When Alex sees James being dragged down a hallway in the middle of the night and then finds him studious and compliant the next day, Alex knows he has to get into the 3rd and 4th floors somehow; the answers have to be there. This book sees Alex having to continually use his resourcefulness just to stay alive long enough to complete his mission. Even before he leaves for France with Mrs. Stellenbosch, he has to act quickly to keep his ‘supposed’ sister from blowing his cover, and in doing so, sets off with one less defence gadget in his possession. When Blunt refuses to rush in rescuers after Alex activates the emergency signal on his CD player, the tension becomes palpable. Grief discovers his identity and plans to use him in science lab the next morning — as part of a dissection lesson. Alex has only one gadget left to use, and after that, he’s on his own. This is a very fast read. Horowitz’ writing style propels the reader along, while the suspense keeps you turning the pages. I still have 3 more in this boxed set to read before I pass them on to my great-nephew and great-niece. They’ll have to be patient. * * * * *
The Alex Rider boxed set is available at Amazon and from other fine book sellers.
This is my “middle grade” adventure review for The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015.