Alex Rider returns for his eighth adventure in Crocodile Tears, and I had a blast with it. This book, more than any of the others, really takes a spin off the James Bond 007 franchise when it opens up on Alex playing Texas Hold ‘em with the big baddie of the book. I had to force my willing suspension of disbelief for this sequence, but Horowitz is one of those storytellers that I’m happy to do that for.
After all, Alex is my favorite teen spy, and the one that truly kicked off a lot of the action-packed series that have since jumped on board. For the uninitiated, and with the books selling in the millions of copies so I can’t believe there can be many of those left, Alex is a 14-year old boy who lives in London and sometimes works with MI-6, Great Britain’s version of the CIA. They love using him because he’s young and generally slides beneath the radar of the bad guys. But Alex is a totally hardcore when it comes to martial arts and feats of derring-do.
Usually Alex gets recruited into a mission for MI-6 through some bit of backhanded blackmail, but in this one he inadvertently steps afoul of Desmond McCain (our villain) and ends up first in the sights of a sharpshooter, then at the eye of the storm McCain unleashes on him. The fact that Alex involved himself in so much of the bad guy’s overall plot was different, and it makes sense given that Alex is the kind of kid that he is. Most boys his age wouldn’t walk away from a mystery or a grievance either, and would look for ways to strike back.
The action in this one is over-the-top stuff that would make great cinematography. Hopefully someone will again pick up the Alex Rider film franchise and give it another go. The series really deserves that, and this would be an excellent story to film from.
Another facet of the stories that I enjoy is the science that goes into the bad guys’ plots. In Crocodile Tears, it’s genetically modified foods and the threat they pose to Third World countries, as well as to the rest of the planet. The plot doesn’t bog down with heavy explanations, but there’s enough there to send curious young readers (and possibly older ones) scurrying to Wikipedia or the Internet for answers.
Strangely, the spy gizmos in this novel seem to be toned down. There really isn’t much here from Smithers, and quite frankly I was a bit disappointed. I love when Smithers takes the stage, because it’s quite a lot like dealing with Q in the lab in one of the James Bond films. Usually Smithers does a lot with designing hardware for Alex that looks like teen-centric stuff.
Overall, I was really happy with Crocodile Tears. The action flowed quite nicely, and the dangerous parts were exciting. I loved the rooftop race with the ductwork and the time when Alex hung suspended over the hungry crocodiles.
Horowitz has maintained that Alex would never be older than 14 and be a spy. At the end of this book, Alex’s 15th birthday is only a few days away. I really don’t want the series to end and I hope that Alex gets suited back up once more really soon.