Eagle Strike is number 4 of the Alex Rider spy series by prolific author/screenwriter Anthony Horowitz. Our 14-year-old, MI6 spy hero is vacationing with the family of his girlfriend Sabina in the south of France, soaking in the rays and resting up from his latest adventure, when his idyllic existence is interrupted by the arrival in the harbour of a luxurious yacht. The man who steps onto the dock is none other than the Russian contract assassin whose face Alex will never forget, Yassen Gregorovich — the man who murdered his uncle, also an MI6 operative.
What would bring a contract killer to this quiet little seaside town? Alex needed to know if Gregorovich was hunting him. Surreptitiously, Alex shadows Yassen and the man he has met to a small café in the town where he overhears a phone conversation and concludes that the hit doesn’t concern him. A conclusion he later regrets deeply when he and Sabina are returning from their outing and can hear the sirens and see the smoke from the explosion that has destroyed their vacation home. With Sabina’s journalist father lying in critical condition in the hospital, Alex tries to piece together the motives behind the hit and whether Edward Pleasure was truly the target and is off on another truly dangerous adventure of international intrigue and political fallout that could affect far-reaching parts of the world and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
In attempting to face the assassin down, Alex is able to lift the last incoming number from Gregorovich’s phone and becomes convinced that the extremely popular singer/ activist/ billionaire Sir Damian Cray was the client. (It may be coincidence here, but I couldn’t help thinking of The Picture of Dorian Gray — the story of the man whose face stayed young and handsome while his picture grew old, displaying his cruel and corrupt nature.) When he is unable to persuade the head of MI6, Alan Blunt, and his right hand, Mrs. Jones, that an investigation should be launched, he finds himself totally on his own. Well, not totally: his friend and housekeeper Jack, becomes his ally, and the gadget genius from MI6, Smithers, sends him an awesome bicycle with ‘special’ features.
Alex is led through the tech world of virtual reality games that are more real than they seem, on high-speed chases through Paris and Amsterdam, and eventually to the take-over of Air Force One with its communication centre and its ability to launch attack missiles from anywhere in the world. Cray is quite insane, doesn’t care who he kills, and will stop at nothing to achieve his ends.
This is a great adventure story, well-written with lots of action and a fair bit of killing but little by way of descriptive gore and always the intent is that Alex Rider will save the day and avert the killing of millions of innocents. Alex, himself, never kills anyone, nor does he act with revenge although at times he thinks he could kill Yassen for the death of his uncle. The plots are solid with accurate descriptions of European towns and cities, some reasonable but fictional political and military maneuvering, and even sees Alex, feeling not only terrified but ridiculous, dressed in a ‘traje de luces’ (a matador’s uniform) and thrown into a bullring in front of a thousand cheering spectators with three killers watching from the stands to ensure he doesn’t try to run. A quick, fun read by bestselling author, Horowitz. * * * * *