Thursday 19 November 2009

Review: Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz

Targeted by a hitman and under threat of his past being exposed by the media, Alex reluctantly turns to MI6. But their help doesn't come cheap: they need Alex to spy on the activities at a GM crop plant. There he spots Desmond McCain, a high profile charity organiser, who realises that Alex is on to him and the real plans for the money he's raising. Kidnapped and whisked off to Africa, Alex learns the full horror of McCain's plot: to create an epic disaster that will kill millions. Forced to ask MI6 for protection, Alex finds himself being manipulated in a deadly game that could lead to the destruction of an entire East African country. 

Reading this book tired me out! In the past week I have read Crocodile Tears and seen 2012 at the cinema and both left me with the same sensation of breathlessness at times – some of the scenes are so tense and action packed that I am unconsciously holding my breath as I read. Reading Crocodile Tears is very much like watching a well-made action movie – Mr Horowitz manages to balance perfectly the highs and lows of the story so that during the quieter moments you are tense with wondering what happens next, and then you get fantastic full-on, white-knuckle action scenes that have you turning the pages as fast as possible to find out just how Alex is going to survive the latest test on his abilities. In this respect this book was very similar to the adult action thrillers written by Matthew Reilly, who readily admits he to writing action movies in novel form. There is no chance to get bored reading this book – the pacing is perfect throughout.

Personally I feel Crocodile Tears ranks up there with Mr Horowitz’s very best work. ‘Snakehead’ was good, but a little less believable and less well written than his previous Alex Rider books (although I should add that stories being ‘less believable’ is something I can cope with easily – one of the reasons I have always loved reading so much is the escapism it offers me, and suspending disbelief has always come easy to me as far as books and films are concerned). As always Mr Horowitz’s imagination is beyond compare – as I was reading each near-death action sequence I was constantly wondering just how Alex would manage to escape, and invariably I required the author to take me by the hand and lead me through the sequence to its nail-biting but ultimately satisfying conclusion (despite the small clues he had already left leading up to the scene).

Crocodile Tears is also a very topical story, dealing as it does with the issues surrounding the growing of GM crops, and Mr Horowitz very cleverly uses his craft to encourage his young readers to become more curious about issues such as this. The majority of the young people I teach/have taught show little interest in many of the issues that appear daily in various media, until that is they are prompted. Hopefully stories like Crocodile Tears will also encourage them to sit up and pay a little more attention to the world around them. The fact that the author has created a villain intent on making a great deal of money immorally may also strike a chord with his readers; there is no Dr Evil or Ernst Stavro Blofeld character hungering for world domination in this story.

I have read a rumour that this may be the last of the Alex Rider books, and also a rumour that there is one more in the series. I feel the ending of this book subtly implies that there may be one more to come, but whichever is true when Mr Horowitz does finally bring the series to a conclusion Alex Rider will be sorely missed (although I am very sure that Mr Horowitz will very quickly manage to fill any such vacuum with another brilliant page-turning creation).

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