Young Mr. Rider’s friends (well, one friend, in particular) have noticed his frequent absences from school — and rather high rate of bodily injuries upon his returns. Since he has signed the Official Secrets Acts, he can’t tell anyone of his involvement with the government. But while on summer break with a friend in southern France, Alex notices a man he has met before (a paid assassin), and Alex tries to learn what the man is doing in a resort town. One thing leads to another, and he ends up confessing to his friend about everything. Everything. His confession is not received quite how he had envisioned, of course, but as events naturally unfold, and he learns why this assassin is in France, he finds out just how little his own government thinks of his opinions as well.
The narrative structure established in the first three books is completely tossed out the window for this story. Rather than receiving an assignment from MI6, Alex instead is challenged to prove his assertions, which he spends the majority of the book attempting to do, while, of course, also saving the free world. During the final climactic scene, we learn a vital part of young Mr. Rider’s backstory, which is as surprising as it is well written.
Anthony Horowitz is doing a very good job of creating a character that is believable living in a world that is only barely so. The action and suspense are good, but rather than resting on his talents for those methods, he is now charging forward and forcing his hero to face some potentially unpleasant truths about his family and himself.
Rating: Moderate. A handful of mild terms, as in previous books, but also a few stronger ones, as well as a rather high body count for a youthful audience.