Scorpia Rising, the ninth book in Anthony Horowitz's teen-spy series marks the end of an era. With over 12 million copies sold in English, Horowitz has decided this will be the last Alex Rider book.
He's off to write adult novels, starting with a new Sherlock Holmes book that has been commissioned by the Conan Doyle Estate.But why is he killing off his famous teen spy?
Horowitz says: "I made it clear that I would stop writing the books when Alex turned 15. At 14, Alex looked like a child, and that was why he was useful to MI6 -- nobody would possibly suspect that he was a spy. But would the same be true at 15 or 16?'
Scorpia Rising is as good as the previous Alex Riders, if not better. Horowitz takes new risks with the plotting -- Alex doesn't appear until chapter seven, some scenes are slower paced, and at times the writing borders on the poetic. But with a writer of Horowitz's calibre it works; he plays out every scene like a master conductor.
The book opens with the international terrorist group Scorpia regrouping and planning their next operation -- an audacious heist involving repatriating the Elgin Marbles and framing both the British government and one Alex Rider. Lured to an international school in Cairo by M16, (a trail planted by Scorpia), Alex is soon in the thick of the action.
Alex himself has changed. For the first time we see the emotional damage that being a teen spy has caused, giving the narrative and Alex's characterisation added depth, and making this well crafted, adrenaline-fuelled novel a worthy conclusion to the series.
Horowitz also says that "vampires, at the moment, are more popular than spies", and he's right, there are several action/adventure writers queuing up to fill Horowitz's vacuum.
One is our own Derek Landy, whose latest Skulduggery Pleasant paperback, Mortal Coil, combines a cracking plot with whip sharp dialogue.
And the smart talent spotters at Landy's publishers, HarperCollins, have also discovered Will Hill, author of one of the most exciting debuts of the year, Department 19. It is a gripping thriller involving vampires and their sworn enemy, a top secret government organisation led by Colonel Frankenstein.
Sarah Webb's latest book for young teens is Ask Amy Green: Bridesmaid Blitz