First released April 2004
Author: Anthony Horowitz
By the time the fifth book in the acclaimed Alex Rider series had come around, Anthony Horowitz had already put his teenage spy through the wringer. He had encountered several megalomaniacs with roughly the same goal of taking over or destroying the world.
With Scorpia, Horowitz played his trump card and it was two sided. On the one hand, the ultimate group of bad guys, Scorpia, are introduced. But the more intriguing aspect is what would happen if our hero actually joined the bad guys?
Scorpia begins as Alex is on a school trip to Venice. He’s already damaged and now disillusioned from his time with MI6. He’s also desperate for answers regarding the mysterious lives of his parents, particularly his father, before they died. Horowitz keeps all the books within a year long period, so we get a clear idea of the psychological impact all these missions have had on Alex, and he has had enough.
He follows a trail to Scorpia and onwards to Positano, also in Italy, where he engages in some light extreme sports involving some cliff jumping and eventually he is lured into the claws of Mrs Rothman, as evil a character as Horowitz has conjured up. As the head of Scorpia, she is in charge of an operation to basically kill a lot of people, unknown to Alex.
A word on Julia Rothman. Horowitz describes her as a beautiful woman, and she seems to come across as a younger and evil version Catherine Zeta Jones. Her dialogue with Alex in this is excellent and her cold hearted exchanges with Scorpia are equally entertaining.
From here, it’s a great read, especially as the reader doesn’t know whether Alex will join Scorpia or go back to MI6, or simply retire and return to being a schoolboy.
I think Scorpia is the best of the Alex Rider series, from a plot point of view and also from the continuing discoveries that Alex makes about his father and his involvement with Scorpia. The action sequences are brilliantly written as always, culminating in a high-stakes (quite literally) set piece above London. Well worth a revisit, or if you haven’t read any of Alex’s missions, get on it! He’s a young, modern James Bond, minus the misogyny and plus the heart.