Meet Desmond McCain, huge and horrible. Former boxer, property developer, MP, arsonist, convict. Now a "born again Christian", acclaimed for the work achieved by First Aid, the charity he heads. It is all a big con, he "the greatest thief who ever lived". First Aid always beats others to the latest crisis simply because he created the catastrophe. McCain's next project involves a heartrending disaster caused by genetic engineering, millions of pounds guaranteed to come rolling in. His concept of charity? "Poor people in rich countries giving money to rich people in poor countries".
Alex Rider once more is reluctantly in the thick of it all, his gadgets disguised as a pencil case and sharpener, rubber and library ticket. For him a rapid succession of missions impossible, much suffering and dramatic escapes.
This is another greatly entertaining read. In his "Afterword" to the 2010 paperback edition, Horowitz however admits it is increasingly hard to avoid repetition. By their very nature Alex's exploits cannot continue, at least in their present form. There is a limit to what a fourteen year old can achieve when he should be at school. Alex's success owes much to his being so young, thus ever underestimated by the enemy.
This is all the more reason to enjoy each new book which so easily could be the last. To be honest, this eighth adventure is a little uneven, the opening in Scotland stretching credibility to the limit. The central themes concerning genetic engineering abuses and charity donation chicanery are, though, chillingly plausible.