Snakehead - Anthony Horowitz, Dan Stevens Crocodile Tears - Anthony Horowitz Scorpia Rising - Anthony Horowitz Never Say Die (Alex Rider) - Anthony Horowitz

As I mentioned, I've spent the last 12 days on a road trip. The route was:

 

Morrisville, TN - Nashville, TN - Memphis, TN - Clarksville, AR (lunch with a dear friend) - Elk City, OK - Albuquerque, NM - Phoenix, AZ (my parent's house) - The Grand Canyon (amazing) - Kingman, AZ - Las Vegas, NV - Reno, NV - home.

 

This was a loooong trip. To keep ourselves occupied on the trip, the three of us (husband, self, 18-year-old son) ended up having an Alex Rider-fest, which was great. We ended up listening to the final four books in the series.

 

Snakehead: as our recent introduction to Alex (we'd all listened to the earlier books YEARS ago, so I was partially guessing when I decided where to start with this trip), we really enjoyed Snakehead. Alex, as always, is dragged unwillingly into helping out a spy agency, in this case, the Australian version of the CIA. The book starts with him plummeting back to earth after fighting the villain from Ark Angel on a space station. It goes from there, with trips to Bangkok, an illegal organ harvesting hospital in the Australian outback, a preposterous kayak ride down a river, a major betrayal, and, finally, reunification with Jack Starbright, his "housekeeper" slash best friend slash caregiver.

 

Crocodile Tears: This one has Alex escaping from a murder plot at a house party in the Scottish Highlands, and then getting into big trouble at a school trip to a place that does genetic modification of plants. He manages to figure out a plot involving a fake charity, and is ultimately kidnapped, taken to Africa, nearly fed to crocodiles, and foils a plot to commit mass homicide for cash. 

 

Scorpia Rising: Scorpia is back, and they are plotting against Alex. MI-6 and Alan Blunt fall for the trickery hook, line and sinker, and Alex is dispatched to a fancy school in Cairo, Egypt. He is captured (again), as is Jack Starbright, who has accompanied him to Egypt. The downside of this book is that it takes a long time to set it up - Alex doesn't make his first appearance until almost 40% of the book has gone by. Far too much time is spent with the two villains. It also has quite a shock ending.

 

Never Say Die: Based on the ending, and the six year gap between Scorpia Rising and the final book (to date), Never Say Die, I think that Horowitz intended Scorpia Rising to be the final book in the series. Someone must have persuaded him otherwise, because Alex is back, and tougher than ever. He is still dealing with the surprise ending of Scorpia Rising living with the Pleasure family in San Franciso when he receives a mysterious email that takes him right back into the shadowy world he thinks he has left forever. The last uncaptured members of Scorpia are at it again, with a ridiculously convoluted plot to make millions of dollars.

 

By the end of Never Say Die, there are no surviving members of Scorpia. Horowitz sets up the next stage in the series with a meeting between Mrs. Jones and Alex, where she points out that once he turns 16, he can be openly employed by MI-6, and a final tease about a new criminal organization that has started operating, Nightshade. Nightshade, the title for the 12th Alex Rider, is scheduled for release next year.

 

The series owes a lot to Fleming's James Bond series. The villains are always coming up with wildly implausible plots, and they cannot restrain themselves from telling the entire plot to Alex once they capture him. Instead of simply putting a bullet in his head, they come up with convoluted methods of killing that give him an opportunity to escape. One of my favorite characters, Smithers, is the analogue to Q, and is always coming up with great gadgets for Alex, disguised as things a school boy might naturally carry. Everyone loved the Rider-fest, and it made the miles disappear!

 

I used my wild card on Horowitz, since there aren't enough categories to really fit these books into, and filled four squares on the bingo board with Alex: Genre Suspense, Free Square, Shifter (wild card) and Doomsday (wild card).