|First published||September 3, 2001|
|Setting||London, French Alps|
|Series||Alex Rider series|
|Next book||Skeleton Key|
|Genre||adventure, spy, thriller|
|Awards||see Awards section|
Alex Rider is at school and notices a man named Skoda selling drugs to students outside of the school. Enraged, Alex follows the man to his home and drug lab located on a barge on the Thames very close to a police station. Alex then sneaks onto a crane and picks up the barge, intending to drop the drug lab in the parking lot next to the police station but instead accidentally drops the barge on the police stations itself.
In exchange for avoiding prison time, MI6 asks Alex to help them once again, this time helping to investigate the deaths of Michael J. Roscoe, an American billionaire, and Viktor Ivanov, a Russian general. The connection between these two men is the fact that they both have rebellious, troublemaking sons who attend the Point Blanc academy in the Swiss Alps run by Dr. Hugo Grief. Alex is asked to go undercover, posing as Alex Friend, the fictitious son of supermarket magnate Sir David Friend. After spending some time with Sir Friend's family to develop his backstory, including an antagonistic series of interactions with Sir Friend's daughter, Fiona.
Soon before leaving for the academy, Alex meets Smithers, the MI6 operative who provided him with several undercover gadgets in his last mission, and gives him several new ones for his time at Point Blanc. He is then picked up by Eva Stellenbosch, a staff member of Point Blanc, who takes him to a hotel in Paris as the first leg of his trip to the academy. At dinner, Alex's drink is drugged, and that night a team of doctors strip his unconscious body and take fastidious photographs of all of his physical features, then return him to his room. He does not remember any of this in the morning.
Alex arrives at the academy, and after meeting Dr. Hugo Grief, the headmaster, befriends another boy named James Sprintz. James tells him that something unusual is going on; that the boys are rebellious and undisciplined, but one by one change overnight into model students. One night, Alex sees James being drug down the hall by Eva Stellenbosch and several guards. The next morning, James is acting strangely, and acts as if nothing has happened. At this point Alex uses one of the gadgets Smithers gave him to signal MI6 for backup, though Blunt and Jones, the MI6 agents in charge of the mission, decide to wait.
Alex breaks into the basement of the academy where he learns from the students gathered there that they are all clones of Dr. Grief who have replaced the regular students. Alex attempts to escape to once again call for help, but is knocked unconscious by Eva Stellenbosch. When he awakens, Dr. Grief explains his plan; he made sixteen clones of himself and founded his academy; one by one he would kill off the real students and replace them with a clone who had been altered with plastic surgery to resemble the student, using the pictures of the unconscious boys taken during their stop at the French hotel on the way to the academy. Then, the clones will return back to their families and inherit their families assets, making Dr. Grief one of the most powerful men in the world. He then informs Alex that he will be killed via a live dissection the next day.
Alex manages to escape using another one of the devices he obtained from Smithers, and snowboards down the mountain using an ironing board. He is pursued by armed guards, and is severely injured after crashing at the bottom of the mountain. At the hospital, Eva Stellenbosch arrives to finish him off; however, she is informed that he died while undergoing treatment. This is a ruse by MI6, who have now arrived and ask Alex to return to the academy to help an SAS squad, lead by Wolf, the man Alex trained with during the events of Stormbreaker, to successfully navigate the academy to rescue the students.
Alex and the squad infiltrate the academy and a battle erupts. Stellenbosch attacks Alex, but is shot by Wolf as she shoots him three times. Though wounded, Wolf survives. Dr. Grief attempts to leave via helicopter, but Alex drives a snowmobile towards the helicopter and bails out at the last second, and the ensuing collision causes an explosion which kills Dr. Grief. The mission having succeeded, Alex returns home to England, where he is further debriefed and informed that the fifteen clones have been arrested.
At school soon after, Alex is called to the headmaster's office, only to come face to face with the clone designed to replace him; the sixteenth clone who escaped the carnage at Point Blank. The two fight, in the process starting an inferno in the chemistry lab from the bullets of the clone's gun and the fight ending up on the roof of the school. The gun is dropped, and one of the boys dives for it, but at that moment the roof opens up from the fire below and that boy falls to his death. The other boy walks away. Though the novel attempts to leave the reader wondering if it was the clone or Alex who survived, the later books in the series confirm that it was in fact Alex who walked away and the clone who fell into the inferno.
- Galaxy British Book Awards: The Children's Book of the Year
- Lancashire Children's Book of the Year
- Blue Peter Book Awards: The Book I Couldn't Put Down
- Askews Torchlight Children's Book Award