Point Blanc

Point Blanc

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Stormbreaker. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Point Blanc was written by Anthony Horowitz and first published in 2001. It’s the second book in the massively popular Alex Rider series, preceded by Stormbreaker (2000) and followed by Skeleton Key (2002), Eagle Strike (2004), Scorpia (2004), Ark Angel (2005), Snakehead (2007), Crocodile Tears (2009), Scorpia Rising (2011) and Russian Roulette (2013). The series follows Alex Rider, a fourteen year old boy who is recruited by the MI6 to undertake missions that would be impossible for adult operatives.

Following the defeat of Herod Sayle, Alex wanted nothing more than to return to his normal life. However, Blunt has other ideas. Two billionaires have died in mysterious accidents and the only link between them is that their children attended the same school. Point Blanc is an elite academy hidden deep in the French Alps that claims to be able to reform even the most troubled of teenager. The MI6 fear that this might be the front for something more sinister.

Alex assumes the identity of Alex Friend – the delinquent son of a wealthy supermarket tycoon – and enrols at the academy. Once there, he’s surprised to find just how strange the school is. It’s run by two mysterious people – the creepy Professor Grief and his weightlifting assistant Mrs Stellenbosch – and all the boys exhibit the same weird body language. Only one boy – James Sprintz – seems to have the same concerns as Alex and is determined to escape but this seems impossible – Point Blanc is at the top of a dangerous mountain and Professor Grief has confiscated every set of skis.

As James starts to behave more like the other boys, Alex realises that the MI6 were right to suspect that something is wrong. He’s tempted to abort the mission and get himself to safety but he knows that he can’t abandon the other boys. He needs to find evidence of what Grief is up to before it’s too late and he becomes like all the rest…

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Public Enemy Number Two

Public Enemy Number Two

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, The Falcon’s Malteser. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Public Enemy Number Two is the second novel in Anthony Horowitz’s The Diamond Brothers series and was first published in 1987. It was preceded by The Falcon’s Malteser (1986) and followed by South by South East (1991), Three of Diamonds (2004 – consisting of the short stories The Blurred Man, The French Confection and I Know What You Did Last Wednesday), How the Greek Stole Christmas (2008) and The Double Eagle Has Landed (2011). The stories follow the cases of Tim Diamond (real name: Herbert Simple), a London-based private detective, and his younger brother Nick who is infinitely more competent.

Six months have passed since the case of the Falcon’s Malteser and Nick and Herbert have long since spent all of their reward. Just as the brothers are run out of baked beans and prepare for starvation, their luck finally changes when Herbert finally finds a new case. A Ming vase called the Purple Peacock has been stolen from the British Museum and his client is paying generously for its safe recovery.

At the same time, Nick is approached by Chief Inspector Snape and offered a job of his own. Snape wants him to go undercover in a young offenders institute and befriend Johnny Powers – Public Enemy Number One. Although Powers is only fifteen his has already become the leader of a London gang and Snape needs to know the name of the person who is fencing all of the goods that Powers has stolen.

Although Nick initially refuses, he quickly discovers that he has no choice. On a school trip to a stately home he is framed for having stolen a priceless ruby. Nick is condemned to spend eighteen months in prison and naturally finds himself as the cellmate of Powers. The choice that he has is obvious. He either needs to survive his sentence or find out the identity of the Fence. However, things become more complicated as he discovers that Powers is planning a gaol break…

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Stormbreaker

Stormbreaker

I already took a look at the work of Anthony Horowitz a few months ago when I reviewed The Falcon’s Malteser but today I’ve decided to focus on what is arguably his most popular series. The Alex Rider series follows the adventures of a fourteen year old boy as he is recruited into the MI6. At the time of writing spans ten novels – Stormbreaker (2000), Point Blanc (2001), Skeleton Key (2002), Eagle Strike (2004), Scorpia (2004), Ark Angel (2005), Snakehead (2007), Crocodile Tears (2009), Scorpia Rising (2011) and Russian Roulette (2013) – as well as several short stories and supplementary books. For the purpose of this review, I will be focusing on Stormbreaker only.

When Alex Rider is told that his Uncle Ian has been killed in a car accident he immediately releases that something is afoot. His uncle was always safety conscious, especially in regards to wearing seatbelts, and so never would have died in such a way. He knows that the manager of the bank where his uncle worked must be lying to him. He just needs to find out why.

As he investigates into Ian’s death, Alex soon discovers that his suspicions were correct. His uncle was actually a spy for the MI6 and was gunned down while investigating a billionaire named Herod Sayle. Sayle has made his fortune by creating a powerful and cheap desktop computer called the Stormbreaker and has recently become popular across the nation by promising to gift one of the machines to every secondary school. The MI6 were suspicious of his generosity before, but Ian’s death has lead them to realise that Sayle must be up to something dangerous.

Realising that Sayle would now be suspicious of another adult operative, the MI6 recruit Alex into their ranks and pass him off as a boy who has won a contest to be the first person to try out a Stormbreaker in order to gain him access to Sayle’s headquarters. Once inside, Alex is placed in more danger that he has ever been in his life. The fate of every school child in England may hinge on his success but if he is caught he knows that he is likely to meet the same fate as his uncle…

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The Falcon’s Malteser

The Falcon's Malteser

For over thirty years, Anthony Horowitz has enjoyed a highly successful career as a children’s author. Working across a number of genres, he has created such well-loved series as the Alex Rider novels, Groosham Grange and The Power of Five. However, for the purpose of today’s review we’re going to be looking at one of his earliest novels, featuring the first case of Tim Diamond.

The Falcon’s Malteser was originally published in 1986 but has been released many times since then. It is the first novel of the Diamond Brothers series and was subsequently followed by Public Enemy Number Two (1987), South By South East (1991), Three of Diamonds (2004) (which collected the stories The Blurred Man, The French Confection and I Know What You Did Last Wednesday) and The Greek Who Stole Christmas (2008). The title of the novel is a spoof of The Maltese Falcon, the famous 1929 detective novel by Dashiell Hammett.

The novel is a comic mystery story that focuses on the Tim Diamond (real name: Herbert Timothy Simple), a somewhat inept young man who is determined to make his name as a private detective, despite the fact that he has no money and lives with his thirteen year old brother (Nick) in small flat above a supermarket in West London.

As Nick wonders how they will survive on their last £2.37, a man by the name of Johnny Naples turns up on their doorstep asking to hire them. He wants them to keep a parcel safe for him until he returns to collect it and offers to pay them handsomely for their trouble. Overjoyed by their sudden windfall, the two boys head out to celebrate but return later that day to find that their office has been ransacked. Someone evidently wants the parcel badly, but when the Diamond Brothers open it they find that it only contains a box of maltesers.

Confused, the brothers head out to find their client but arrive at his hotel moments before he is shot dead. It quickly transpires that a criminal known as the Falcon has recently passed away and Johnny Naples could very well have been the only person to know where he had hidden his vast fortune of diamonds. Realising that the maltesers must somehow be the key to this treasure, Nick and Tim enter into a race against to clock to recover the diamonds before another gangster can discover them and take over the Falcon’s mantel as a new international crime lord.

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