Skeleton Key (Alex Rider Series #3)

Skeleton Key (Alex Rider Series #3)

4.5 446
by Anthony Horowitz

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Alex Rider has been through a lot for his fourteen years. He's been shot at by international terrorists, chased down a mountainside on a makeshift snowboard, and has stood face-to-face with pure evil. Twice, young Alex has managed to save the world. And twice, he has almost been killed doing it. But now Alex faces something even more dangerous. The desperation of a

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Alex Rider has been through a lot for his fourteen years. He's been shot at by international terrorists, chased down a mountainside on a makeshift snowboard, and has stood face-to-face with pure evil. Twice, young Alex has managed to save the world. And twice, he has almost been killed doing it. But now Alex faces something even more dangerous. The desperation of a man who has lost everything he cared for: his country and his only son. A man who just happens to have a nuclear weapon and a serious grudge against the free world. To see his beloved Russia once again be a dominant power, he will stop at nothing. Unless Alex can stop him first... Uniting forces with America's own CIA for the first time, teen spy Alex Rider battles terror from the sun-baked beaches of Miami all the way to the barren ice fields of northernmost Russia. Come along for the thrilling ride of a lifetime.

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Children's Literature
Third in the "Alex Rider" adventures, this offering—for those who don't know—is Horowitz and Britain's extension of Ian Fleming's James Bond, but for kids. Yes, fourteen-year-old Alex is a member (unwilling and unpaid) of MI6. Hauled from school at the whim of his masters, Alex begins this adventure by saving Wimbledon from a Chinese betting conspiracy. When the irate tong puts out a contract on our young hero, he is wafted to an island off Cuba to help the CIA track down a missing nuclear bomb. Things go from bad to worse, naturally, and when Alex's CIA "parents" are murdered, he finds himself in the clutches of an evil ex-Soviet general bound to destroy the world for revenge. Can Alex handle it? Silly question. For this black-belt, scuba-diving, horse-riding, crane-driving super teen nothing is impossible. All of the Fleming touches are borrowed, including MI6's tiny lethal toys, the characterizations of his intelligence "keepers"—and of course, the love interest. In this case she is tellingly named Sabina Pleasure. Overkill? Not in the context of the rest of the plot. Ian Fleming may be turning in his grave, but it's Tom Clancy who needs to keep an eye on young Alex. 2003, Philomel, Ages 10 to 14.
— Kathleen Karr
This book delivers another nonstop action adventure starring Alex Rider. It is a fast-paced read that certainly will make readers hold their breath until the very last page. The book reads like a movie with its attention to imagery and detail. Nevertheless, readers of the first two Alex Rider novels might feel disappointed by the lack of attention to the cliffhanger from the second novel. VOYA Codes: 3Q 4P M (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Philomel, 272p, Anna Banana), Teen Reviewer
Third in the Alex Rider series, this suspenseful adventure follows Stormbreaker and Point Blank, but it isn't necessary to have read the other titles to enjoy this one. Alex's uncle and guardian was a spy for Britain's MI6; now that he's dead, 14-year-old Alex has been reluctantly pressed into continuing his work. Like a teenaged James Bond, Alex dispatches bad guys with his quick wits, special skills (such as karate and expert skateboarding), and helpful gadgets from MI6, like a disguised grenade and bubblegum that can expand to crack any lock. Here Alex sniffs out a plot by a Chinese triad and saves the Wimbledon tennis tournament, surfs a monstrous wave and survives a deadly attack by a Jet Ski—and that's just in the first few chapters, before the main plotline kicks in, concerning a Russian general who is in possession of a nuclear bomb. The general resides on Skeleton Key, a Cuban island, and the CIA borrows Alex to help find out what this madman is up to. Naturally, nothing less than the future of the world hangs in the balance, and it's up to Alex to defeat the general, as well as to survive a exploding ship, a shark attack, and various attempts on his life. There's action every step of the way, and the book barrels right along. Alex even acquires an admiring girlfriend in between escapades, to make his character even more Bond-like; but this is a pretty chaste relationship, and the gore is relatively minimal, too. There is some xenophobia here, however: the Brits are the good guys, the American incompetent, the Chinese and Russians evil. This adventure series is highly popular, though, and this new outing will please Alex's many fans. (An Alex Rider Adventure). KLIATTCodes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Penguin Putnam, Philomel, 208p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 5-10-Fans of Horowitz's Stormbreaker (2001) and Point Blank (2002, both Philomel), and newcomers to the series alike, will not be disappointed with this rip-roaring escapade featuring the 14-year-old spy. Trying to return to a "normal" life as a schoolboy after a mere four weeks since his last MI6 adventure, Alex Rider is recruited right off the soccer field to check out some suspicious goings-on at Wimbledon. This assignment catapults him into a series of life-threatening episodes, such as coming face to face with a great white shark, dodging bullets as he dives off a burning boat, and being tied to a conveyor belt that is moving toward the jaws of a gigantic grindstone in an abandoned sugar factory. Soon the teen is single-handedly taking on his most dangerous enterprise yet. His mission is nothing short of saving the world from a nuclear attack, engineered by the psychopathic and egomaniacal former commander of the Russian army. Alex is armed only with a few specially designed gadgets, which are disarmingly age-appropriate: a Gameboy that doubles as a Geiger counter, a cell phone whose aerial shoots out a drugged needle that is activated by pressing 999, a Tiger Woods figurine that doubles as a small grenade when its head is twisted just so. This page-turning thriller leaves readers breathless with anticipation. When at last Alex returns home, his love interest, Sabina Pleasure, asks where he has been. "Well, I was, sort of- busy," he replies in a classic, understated, James Bond kind of way.-Elizabeth Fernandez, Brunswick Middle School, Greenwich, CT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Alex Rider Series, #3
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)
630L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Meet the Author

Anthony Horowitz's life might have been copied from the pages of Charles Dickens or the Brothers Grimm. Born in 1956 in Stanmore, Middlesex, to a family of wealth and status, Anthony was raised by nannies, surrounded by servants and chauffeurs. His father, a wealthy businessman, was, says Mr. Horowitz, "a fixer for Harold Wilson." What that means exactly is unclear — "My father was a very secretive man," he says— so an aura of suspicion and mystery surrounds both the word and the man. As unlikely as it might seem, Anthony's father, threatened with bankruptcy, withdrew all of his money from Swiss bank accounts in Zurich and deposited it in another account under a false name and then promptly died. His mother searched unsuccessfully for years in attempt to find the money, but it was never found. That too shaped Anthony's view of things. Today he says, "I think the only thing to do with money is spend it." His mother, whom he adored, eccentrically gave him a human skull for his 13th birthday. His grandmother, another Dickensian character, was mean-spirited and malevolent, a destructive force in his life. She was, he says, "a truly evil person", his first and worst arch villain. "My sister and I danced on her grave when she died," he now recalls.

A miserably unhappy and overweight child, Anthony had nowhere to turn for solace. "Family meals," he recalls, "had calories running into the thousands…. I was an astoundingly large, round child…." At the age of eight he was sent off to boarding school, a standard practice of the times and class in which he was raised. While being away from home came as an enormous relief, the school itself, Orley Farm, was a grand guignol horror with a headmaster who flogged the boys till they bled. "Once the headmaster told me to stand up in assembly and in front of the whole school said, 'This boy is so stupid he will not be coming to Christmas games tomorrow.' I have never totally recovered." To relieve his misery and that of the other boys, he not unsurprisingly made up tales of astounding revenge and retribution.

So how did an unhappy boy, from a privileged background, metamorphose into the creator of Alex Rider, fourteen-year-old spy for Britain's MI6? Although his childhood permanently damaged him, it also gave him a gift — it provided him with rich source material for his writing career. He found solace in boyhood in the escapism of the James Bond films, he says. He claims that his two sons now watch the James Bond films with the same tremendous enjoyment he did at their age. Bond's glamour translates perfectly to the 14-year-old psyche, the author says. "Bond had his cocktails, the car and the clothes. Kids are just as picky. It's got to be the right Nike trainers (sneakers), the right skateboard. And I genuinely think that 14-year-olds are the coolest people on the planet. It's this wonderful, golden age, just on the cusp of manhood when everything seems possible."

Alex Rider is unwillingly recruited at the age of fourteen to spy for the British secret service, MI6. Forced into situations that most average adults would find terrifying and probably fatal, young Alex rarely loses his cool although at times he doubts his own courage. Using his intelligence and creativity, and aided by non-lethal gadgets dreamed up by MI6's delightfully eccentric, overweight and disheveled Smithers, Alex is able to extricate himself from situations when all seems completely lost. What is perhaps more terrifying than the deeply dangerous missions he finds himself engaged in, is the attitude of his handlers at MI6, who view the boy as nothing more than an expendable asset.

The highly successful Alex Rider novels include Stormbreaker, Point Blank, Skeleton Key, and the recent Eagle Strike.

Anthony Horowitz is perhaps the busiest writer in England. He has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. He writes in a comfortable shed in his garden for up to ten hours per day. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he has also written episodes of several popular TV crime series, including Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. He has written a television series Foyle's War, which recently aired in the United States, and he has written the libretto of a Broadway musical adapted from Dr. Seuss's book, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. His film script The Gathering has just finished production. And…oh yes…there are more Alex Rider novels in the works. Anthony has also written the Diamond Brothers series.

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