Yassen, a vicious assassin in the employ of Scorpia (a consortium of vile international crooks), is given the order to kill Alex Rider, the fourteen-year-old hero of several of Horowitz's wonderful stories for children. He, Yassen, settles down, the night before his evil mission, to read his diary, the story of his own life, beginning when he, too, was 14. We are off.
Could anyone else have made a paid assassin into a sympathetic character for young readers? I doubt it. But Horowitz pulls it off. We follow the young Yassen on his journey through life, from the disaster which destroys everything he knows, including his parents, his best friend and his grandmother, to his becoming one of the most successful killers in the world. And that journey is appalling. But, somehow, Yassen retains his humanity through most of it.
Horowitz's writing style is perfect for teenagers (and even for elderly readers like me). He is never patronising. He resists the temptation to which so many other writers for children (and even adults) give in to lecture and educate. He just tells a story beautifully and grippingly.
Why should we adults be given rubbish written by Dan Brown, Jeffrey Archer etc. when children are given pearls like this?
This is yet another triumph for the man who must, surely, be our finest living author of children's books.