Point Blanc, by Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider Reread #2)

“You’ve already said you’re going to kill me,” Alex said, “but I didn’t think that meant you were going to bore me to death.”

Book two! I probably haven’t read Point Blanc quite as many times as I’ve read Stormbreaker, but it’s pretty close. We’re definitely still in the ‘I can probably describe most of this book word for word’ part of the series. Partly because it’s early series so it’s more of a temptation to pick up, partly because of *late series spoiler* and partly because some of the hijinks Alex gets up to in this book are just TOO good not to reread. As always with mid-series books, here be spoilers for any earlier entries to the series.

Rating: 4 stars!

Alex Rider series so far:

We’re still just beginning! At the end of Stormbreaker, Alex is thinking his life is going to go back to normal (😬 sorry kiddo, your trouble is just beginning) while Blunt has realised that Alex is a one of a kind type of agent and he can’t afford to let him go. Herod Sayle is dead, killed by a Yassen ex machina at the very last moment and saving Alex’s life. Alex saved the UK’s schoolchildren from an awful fate, and Yassen’s advice is to say no the next time MI-6 come asking for him. But, well. We’ll see how that goes in Point Blanc.

The plot:

When two men are assassinated after sending their rebellious teenage sons to an elite school, MI6 calls on Alex again for a spy job that only a 14 year old could manage. Dr. Grief and the vicious Mrs. Stellenbosch are the only teachers, and the students aren’t rebellious at all – just eerily, identically obedient. When Alex finds the truth, villains find him and he has to get out of the mountains or die trying.

What did I think?

I low key think this might be better than Stormbreaker? Alex had to actually rely on himself in this one, rather than the Ian Rider last minute saves that happened a little too often in Stormbreaker. We get two pre-mission scrapes in this one, and these might be my favourites? I love the Skeleton Key mis-adventure, but Alex has two of my favourite moments in Point Blanc. I listened to the first half of this on audiobook while I was processing delivery at work, and two of the Alex-lines were so memorable to me that I stopped what I was doing and picked up my phone ready to mark them for quoting.

“Thanks Fiona,” he said. “But frankly I’d prefer to kiss the horse.”

Anthony Horowitz kills it again with the vivid, atmospheric horror. There’s a scene in which Alex is climbing in a confined space, and there was a moment during the description of it where I actually paused to note it with just ‘fuck’ because it was making me genuinely anxious and claustrophobic to think about it in too much detail. It never goes over the top, these are children’s books, and you know that Alex isn’t going to straight up suffocate in a confined space, but it gives you just enough leeway to think about how horrifying it would be if he did.

I think one of the reasons I love Point Blanc so much as part of this series as that the terror in it is truly pervasive. There are a lot of moments in this book that make me genuinely uneasy, and Dr. Grief especially has a way of getting under my skin in ways that Herod Sayle just couldn’t compete with. Not just because he’s an absolutely blatant racist arsehole, but also because of the way that he’s so real. His plan is cartoon levels of supervillainy, but there’s something about him that is just haunting. Maybe because he got so close to winning, or because his motivations are purely power-hungry, as opposed to Sayle’s revenge plot. Grief and Stellenbosch are both merciless, and that’s something you don’t see a lot of in kidlit.

Again, the bad guys in this one aren’t really pulling their punches. The good guys definitely were, SAS stun arrows being my favourite example, but the bad guys are still legitimately bad. There are some things that are obviously softened (and I’m glad of it, if this was an adult book there would be so. many. dead. kids.) but in many ways it’s their behaviour outside of murdering and killing that is truly heinous. Without delving into spoilers, one chapter (I think it’s called Room 13) makes me viscerally uncomfortable every time I read it, even though there’s no murder or gore or horror. But it is exactly the kind of creepy shit I could imagine a character like Dr. Grief signing off on, so it edges under my skin without jarring me out of the book.

Blunt is still the goddamn worst. I think this might be the surprising consequence of this series, me ending my reread thinking that Blunt is worse than all of the actual villains we face. I’d delve deeper into Blunt’s bullshit, but I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, and it’s pretty late-book. Maybe next review I’ll be able to talk about why he’s the worst, most soul-less person on Alex’s side.

The ending of this book is phenomenal. I never sat down to read Point Blanc before Skeleton Key was announced/released, because I was way too young, and if I had I would have been loudly losing my shit for a full year. Horowitz drops little hints leading up to the end, making the reader put together themselves what’s about to happen, and then it makes us watch that ending and there’s not a thing we can do about it. I know Alex is okay, because we’ve got another 9 books in the main series alone, and because I’ve read them before, but the ambiguity is expertly played.

Join me next week for Skeleton Key, but first as always, my favourite Alex moment:

He shrugged apologetically. “I was just working on the crime figures,” he said. “And I think there’s been a drop.”


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