“Point Blank” is the second book in Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series. It had more time to jump into the storyline than the first book, “Stormbreaker,” and for that, turned out to be a better read for me than the first book. To my surprise, it grabbed and carried my attention to the very end.
Alex Rider is a 14-year-old reluctant spy who, after his uncle Ian passed away, assumes tasks assigned to him by his uncle’s former employers. It’s fair to consider Alex like a young James Bond, though finding his feet as he becomes involved in each case. No surprise that there are subtle references within each book to Ian Fleming’s famous character, but I digress.
Horowitz does a fine job of balancing action, humor and suspense for the Alex Rider series, and this installment provides a fun read for its target group (I would say preteens, mainly boys, but I know if I’d read this while in the respective age group, I would’ve loved it).
After foiling a drug operation, Alex finds himself on the job again despite being massively behind in his schoolwork and at a distance from his friends and classmates. He goes undercover at a special academy for troubled boys called “Point Blank.” The wards of the French school all have one thing in common – they’re from prominent, wealthy families. After a few of the boys and their parents end up dead, Alex has to investigate the suspicious activity and put a stop to it.
Not an easy task if you’re under the watchful eye of armed guards and have limited sources at your disposal. I thought the unfolding action was well done, even if to my chagrin, there wasn’t much character development or growth in the work. Also, the drug bust at the beginning of the novel somewhat slows the pace – I think it could’ve started with the new assignment at the academy and just took off from there, because that’s when I fell in step with the novel.
It’s the kind of book you enjoy simply for the ride that it takes you on. I like how Horowitz places certain twists in the storyline just when you think things are winding down for Alex and that he’s got it figured out.
To read this book, you have to read the first in the series in order to understand who some of the characters are (particularly for Alex’s backup team, because they’re more in the background and don’t come across until well in the latter part of the story.)
Fast paced, fluid prose, very well read audiobook (I read it twice within 24 hours – the audio version and the book version for comparison). I think those who like teen spy protagonists, or are fans of the Alex Rider series will find this enjoyable. Some elements might suspend disbelief, but it’s a quick read that’s hard to put down.
Overall score: 3.5/5