When the world is threatened by a diabolical madman, the British Secret Service knows the name to call—Alex. Alex Rider. (What, you were expecting someone else?) The teenage super spy from Stormbringer and Snakehead is back to save the day in Crocodile Tears, the eighth installment in the popular action series from Anthony Horowitz. If you’re not familiar with the series, just think “James Bond in sneakers.” (At one point Horowitz even dresses the hero in a tuxedo and black tennis shoes.) Alex Rider is a perfectly normal British teenager, except that he’s been unknowingly trained as a spy by his uncle, an agent of MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA). When his uncle is murdered in the first novel, Alex is recruited by the agency for both his talents and his age—because who would suspect a 14-year-old of being a spy?

By the time of Crocodile Tears, however, Alex is weary of the spy business. He just wants to be a regular schoolboy and spend time with his girlfriend, Sabina. He’s told MI6 and Sabina that he’s out for good. But when someone tries to kill Alex, Sabina and her father, Alex is swept back into action. In short order, Alex is infiltrating the laboratory of a bio-geneticist with a fascination for poisons and running afoul of a disaster-relief charity, and a penchant for showing up just a little too quickly after devastating industrial “accidents.”

As in the other books, the action is nonstop, the villains suitably villainous and the gadgets are just the sort of things any reader would love to get his or her hands on (what schoolboy wouldn’t want an exploding pen?). Horowitz’s background as a screenwriter is evident—it’s easy to imagine the tale as a blockbuster movie with exotic locales, explosions and death-defying stunts. And as always, Alex is both fully believable and easy to root for. Whether you’re already a fan of the series, or just jumping into the action, Crocodile Tears is another great ride.

Howard Shirley is a children’s writer living in Franklin, Tennessee. Visit his website at www.howardshirleywriter.com.

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