|First published||September 4, 2003|
|Setting||southern France, Amsterdam, London|
|Series||Alex Rider series|
|Previous book||Skeleton Key|
|Genre||adventure, spy, thriller|
|Awards||see Awards section|
Alex Rider is on vacation with his friend Sabina Pleasure and her family in southern France. While on the trip, Alex spots Yassen Gregorovich, the assassin formerly under Herod Sayle's employ during the events of Stormbreaker. When the Pleasure's vacation house explodes soon afterwards, injuring Sabina's father, Alex is convinced that Gregorovich is somehow involved. He infiltrates Gregorovich's yacht, but is captured, and entered in a bullfighting tournament by Gregorovich as punishment for his infiltration. Alex manages to survive the encounter, kill Gregorovich's accomplice, and escape, but not before stealing Gregorovich's phone. He calls the last number dialed, and is surprised to hear the voice of Damien Cray, a pop star.
Alex contacts MI6 and tells them that Cray is somehow involved, but Alan Blunt, who is in charge of the Special Operations division of MI6, refuses to follow up on this lead, saying that it would look bad if MI6 was caught investingating a pop star and philanthropist for no solid reasoning. Alex decides to pursue Cray himself, and attempts to tell Sabina about his involvement in MI6, even trying to bring her to the office, but she refuses to believe him.
Alex attends a public display sponsored by Damien Cray to promote a new video game he is releasing. After nearly beating the game in the first try, he is sabotaged by Cray, who did not want the game to look too easy to spectators. Alex meets a journalist who worked with Sabina's father, who tells Alex that Sabina's father had released an article on Damien Cray recently and was investigating him further before the explosion. Alex and the reporter are interrupted by an unknown assailant who kills the reporter, and attempts to kill Alex as well, though Alex escapes.
With his caretaker, Jack Starbright, Alex travels to Amsterdam. He sneaks away from her and infiltrates Cray Industries, where he witnesses Cray murder a man by burying him in coins when the man demands payment. Cray and Gregorovich discuss their plan, where it is revealed that the video game development is simply a cover for the immense computerized building which has actually been used to develop a single flash drive. Alex is captured by Cray and Gregorovich and left in a real-life Aztec themed video game set up in the basement, which Cray says will help him perfect the video game by studying Alex's death. Alex fakes his death, and as the actors dressed in full costume are leaving, Alex sneaks out, but not before grabbing the unguarded flash drive Cray left at his work station.
In retaliation, Cray kidnaps Sabina and threatens to kill her if the flash drive is not returned. Alex attempts to outmaneuver Cray but is instead captured, along with the flash drive. Cray reveals his plan, codenamed Eagle Strike; he plans to steal Air Force One, and using the flash drive his company has developed, override the controls of the nuclear control in the plane, and launch nuclear weapons at the parts of Asia where the world's supply of drugs is grown, thus ending the drug trade, according to his plan.
Using nerve gas, Cray is able to eliminate the Secret Service guard and take over Air Force One at Heathrow Airport. Once in the air, he orders Gregorovich to kill Sabina and Alex. Gregorovich refuses, as he does not kill children, and Cray shoots him and then Alex. Alex survives due to a bulletproof jersey given to him earlier by Smithers, the MI6 agent who makes gadgets for the agency. Alex pushes a food cart into Cray and forces both the cart and the man out the side of the plane, shredding Cray into pieces but destroying the engine with the metal of the cart, and the plane crashes.
As he draws his final breaths, Gregorovich tells Alex that his father, John Rider, worked as an assassin, and that Alex should go to Venice and seek out something called "Scorpia" to find his destiny. Sabina tells Alex that her family is moving to San Francisco, and they share a kiss.
- Portsmouth Book Award
- Galaxy British Book Awards: The Children's Book of the Year
- Book of The Year 2012: Awesome Books