|First published||September 28, 2007|
|Series||Alex Rider series|
|Previous book||Ark Angel|
|Next book||Crocodile Tears|
|Genre||adventure, spy, thriller|
|Awards||see Awards section|
Immediately after the conclusion of Ark Angel, Alex Rider finds himself in the south Pacific Ocean as the escape capsule from the Ark Angel hotel has crashed to the earth's surface. Alex is rescued by the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, and is dropped off at an Australian military base run by the Australian SAS. Alex attends a barbecue with some of the soldiers, but finds himself in an active live-fire training field. He manages to escape, and learns that he had been lead there as a test by ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service) director Ethan Brooke to prove to his men that Alex was as tough as the rumors suggested.
Scorpia is hired to assassinate eight celebrities who are leading a benefit fundraiser against poverty on Reef Island, a small island northwest of Australia, at the same time as the G8 summit. Major Winston Yu, the half-British former Army head of the Snakehead Gang in Asia, is put in charge of the operation, and Scorpia agents break into a Ministry of Defense center and steal a prototype bomb known as "Royal Blue." The bomb can create a tsunami, flooding the island where the celebrities are performing without anyone learning that an assassination took place. ASIS director Ethan Brooke coerces Alex into helping investigate, and pairs him with a man named Ash, who turns out to be Alex's godfather and a former friend of Alex's father.
Alex and Ash travel to Thailand to pose as Afghan refugees paying Snakehead to smuggle them into Australia. This way, they can learn how Snakehead is able to infiltrate the country. They are disguised and sent to Chinatown to wait for their contact.
Alex is captured and entered into an illegal Muay Thai boxing ring. He manages to defeat Sunthorn, the toughest fighter and a member of Snakehead, by spitting water on him. A riot ensues at the unexpected victory, and the lights suddenly go out, (later revealed to be the actions of Ben Daniels) and Alex is able to escape.
Snakehead takes Alex and Ash to Jakarta, Indonesia as the next step of their trip. They are briefly interrupted by Kopassus, the Indonesian special forces. Alex and Ash escape the toy factory they had been smuggled into and make it to port, stowing aboard the Liberian Star, a container ship. Ash and Alex are locked in separate containers, but Alex manages to escape with an explosive coin given to him by Smithers, the armorer of MI6, and finds Major Yu scanning his fingerprints into the Royal Blue bomb, giving him sole control over it. Alex sneaks up to the bomb after Yu leaves and scans in his own fingerprints as well. Alex escapes the ship using another explosive coin, but is forced to surrender when Ash is revealed as a hostage.
Alex is knocked out and wakes up to meet Yu, who offers him tea before planning on sending him to a remote hospital in the Australian rainforest to have his organs harvested and sold on the black market to recuperate the cost of damaging the ship through Alex's exploding coins. However, Alex uses his final coin to escape, and kayaks down the river while being shot at by Snakehead agents. Alex attempts to contact MI6 but realizes there is no battery in his watch, but manages to use the battery in his trainers to send the signal. Alex is rescued by MI6.
Alex, along with Ben Daniels and an SAS team, is sent to the oil rig where the Royal Blue bomb is to be detonated. When they run into Yu and his assistant, Yu flees while Ben shoots his assistant, who is revealed to be Ash. Ash admits to being a double agent after a botched mission for MI6. He reveals that he was the one who planted the bomb on the plane that killed Alex's parents, and hints that he may have had romantic feelings for Alex's mother. He expresses some regret before he dies. Yu manages to set off the bomb, but because Alex had scanned in his fingerprints, he is able to detonate it early, sparing the target island. Yu is killed from the shock wave due to his osteoperosis, and every bone in his body is simultaneously broken.
Alex arrives back in London, and Jack Starbright, Alex's guardian, calls over an unknown individual for dinner. It is revealed to be Sabina Pleasure, Alex's love interest who moved to San Francisco with her parents after the events of Skeleton Key.
- Galaxy British Book Award
- Berkshire Book Award