Crocodile Tears by Anthony Howoritz

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Anthony Horowitz’s new Alex Rider novel, Crocodile Tears, delivers heart-pounding, fast-paced action right up to the last five pages. Horowitz is a master at situational suspense. Through his use of detailed descriptions of settings, gadgets, and his characters’ thoughts, the reader is totally engulfed in the narrative. And despite the fact that there is an accepted certainty that things will turn out in the end, it is impossible not to wonder how exactly Alex Rider will survive each dangerous situation. 

Crocodile Tears begins with fourteen-year old Alex Rider reflecting about the previous year as most of us do on New Years Eve. For Alex the year had been one of physical pain, and near death experiences that most men let alone teenage boys ever have to face. However, Alex is not like most teenagers. For the last year he has been a spy for M16, Britain’s top intelligence agency. Even as Alex decides that “he’d had enough” events occur that make it impossible for him to leave the spy stuff behind. Instead, Alex finds himself, fighting for his life first in a Scotland lake, then in a poison bio-dome, and finally in Kenya.

Crocodile Tears’ setting is a considerable factor in the success of its plot, and Anthony Horowitz is a virtuoso at using detailed descriptions to establish not only where the story’s action takes place but mood. One such place is Kilmore Castle, a “looming ... unwelcoming” place “built on a rocky outcrop” above “an expanse of black water” ... known as Loch Arkaig. The castle “existed only to rule and to keep those inside it in power”.  Horowitz’s descriptions add to the suspense of the action that takes place without bogging the reader down with minute details. The setting also frequently foreshadows the conflicts Alex Rider will face.

In addition to his well-written description of setting, Horowitz’s characterization enables the reader to experience Alex Rider’s thought processes as he faces each challenge. Rider’s reluctance to be a spy is clearly portrayed through his reflections, and if it weren’t for Alex’s thoughts, the reader might forget that he is after all only fourteen-years-old. However, glimpses of typical teenage insecurities, help keep Alex’s character in perspective even if his conflicts are far-fetched. One suspenseful example in the book is when Alex, his friend Sabrina, and her father end up at the bottom of Loch Arkaig. Even as Alex is desperately trying to save all their lives, he has a moment when he doubts he will be successful, and his thoughts turn to leaving Sabrina’s dad behind in order to save him self. By allowing the reader access into such thoughts, Alex becomes a much more realistic character.

I have become a huge fan of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series. Once I begin reading, I find them impossible to put down.  I truly relish the suspense packed pages and the descriptiveness of the setting. Unlike some descriptions, I rarely skim because I know from experience that the setting is too important to the plot to miss any of it. Most of all, I find Alex one of those characters that I love to read about, and I will be anxiously awaiting his next adventure.

Rating: 5 Cherries 

1 Delicious Comments:

Richard Hanks said...

Great write up.

I have only read the first Alex Rider book, but this review and others really make me want to check out Crocodile Tears. I might have skip ahead in the series!

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