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Snakehead: Alex Rider    by Anthony Horowitz order for
by Anthony Horowitz
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alex Rider is a teen James Bond, whose previous adventures in this fast-paced series took him into outer space, and who has reluctantly taken on assignments for MI6 and the CIA. Alex's parents died when he was small (his father worked for MI6) and he's been raised by his uncle Ian, who is also an active MI6 agent. Alex is fluent in French and Spanish as well as English, and holds a black belt in karate.

As Snakehead opens, Alex crash lands in the ocean off the west coast of Australia. Soon, we see him being manipulated by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) into taking on an assignment that appears simple and straightforward on the surface. The carrot? He'd pose as the Afghan son of the godfather, Ash, of whom he has no memory. Alex desperately wants to quiz Ash about his parents and his childhood. ASIS want Ash and Alex to pose as refugees and infiltrate a snakehead group that operates across South East Asia, smuggling drugs, weapons, people, and body parts - anything for profit.

Readers learn early on that Alex's nemesis Scorpia, an international criminal organization, is plotting to sabotage a meeting of powerful and popular do-gooders on Reef Island off northwest Australia. We see them acquire a very powerful prototype bomb for that purpose. And they have a surprising amount of inside information. Alex meets Ash in Thailand and they pose as Afghans but their mission quickly goes awry. The story continues with a steady stream of action, violence and betrayals, which Alex survives by the skin of his teeth - losing a fair bit of skin in the process, and coming close to losing less replaceable body parts.

Of course, Alex survives all the trials set before him, saves the day, and astounds adult secret service agents with his precocious talents. And at the end, he's rewarded by a visit from - who else? - the lovely Sabina Pleasure. Now that's a name straight out of a Bond movie!

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