Russian Roulette (novel)
|Series||Alex Rider series|
|Genre||Adventure, Spy novel|
|12 September 2013 (UK)|
|Preceded by||Scorpia Rising|
Russian Roulette is the tenth Alex Rider novel written by Anthony Horowitz. It serves as a prequel or a back-story to the Alex Rider series but mainly focuses on the childhood of the assassin that appears in many of the books, Yassen Gregorovich.
Shortly after the Science Museum scene in Stormbreaker, Yassen Gregorovitch receives an order to kill Alex Rider. The connection the two of them share prompts Yassen to recall his past.
A 14-year old Yassen is forced to flee his home after an accident at the factory his parents work at - which secretly develops chemical weapons for the Russian government - contaminates the whole village with a deadly strain of anthrax. The Russian authorities proceed to send helicopters to destroy the village, in order to contain the outbreak and cover up the chemical weapons development. Yassen escapes with his best friend Leo, who later dies from the effects of the outbreak. Yassen survives, having been given the only sample of antidote by his parents.
Yassen makes his way to Moscow, and meets Misha Dementyev, a friend of his parents who they told him to seek out. Dementyev calls the police, knowing that Yassen is a loose end regarding the chemical weapons development. Yassen avoids arrest, and joins a gang of petty thieves who had pickpocketed him earlier. After a few days, the group decide to burgle a house. Yassen convinces them to rob a flat owned by Vladimir Sharkovsky, a wealthy businessman whom he overheard Dementyev talking to on the phone. As the smallest of the gang Yassen is chosen to crawl through a fortochnik and let the other members into the house.
Sharkovsky unexpectedly returns to the flat and captures Yassen, but decides to let him live due to the recent death of his food taster. He forces Yassen to play a game of Russian Roulette with a single bullet, which he survives. After making two unsuccessful attempts to escape, Yassen spends the next four years at Sharkovsky's estate, serving as his food taster as well as a general labourer. One night, he learns that Sharkovsky had been responsible for the deaths of his parents and destruction of his village, having cut corners regarding safety at the factory in order to increase profit, and vows to kill him.
Yassen's imprisonment ends when a Scorpia assassin by the name of Grant infiltrates the compound and seemingly kills Sharkovsky, and Yassen convinces Grant to let him escape with him. Grant takes him to The Widow's Palace, where Yassen is introduced to Julia Rothman, one of the leaders of Scorpia. It is revealed that Sharkovsky survived the attempt on his life, and Grant is subsequently killed by Rothman for his failure. Rothman offers to let Yassen join Scorpia, since because of his past, no records of him exist anywhere in the world, making it near impossible for authorities to track him down. Yassen agrees, his only other option being to return to Russia, where Sharkovsky's people will no doubt be looking for him.
Yassen spends the next four months at Scorpia's training facility on the island of Malagosto, before being given his first contract. When the time comes, Yassen is unable to take the target's life, and she is subsequently killed by another Scorpia agent. Though disappointed with him, Scorpia decide to give Yassen a second chance, and pair him up with John Rider, Alex Rider's father.
John and Yassen work on two contracts together. During the first contract, John saves Yassen's life, and expresses doubt that Yassen has it in him to be a killer, and suggests that he give up if he doesn't want to be one. The second contract takes place in Paris, where Yassen is again unable to kill the target, and admits to John that he does not want to be an assassin. As John and Yassen wait in an airport - Yassen planning to take a plane to Berlin and disappear - Yassen discovers a gadget from MI6 in John's luggage, and realises from this, as well as a number of details he noticed during the time spent with him, that John is an MI6 double agent working against Scorpia.
Feeling betrayed from this revelation, and guessing that John has warned Scorpia about his defection in an attempt to weaken them further, Yassen abandons his original plans, and returns to Sharkovsky's estate, using the skills he learned from Scorpia to infiltrate the place and confront Sharkovsky. He reveals his true identity, as well as Sharkovsky's role in influencing his life. Again, Yassen plays Russian Roulette in front of Sharkovsky, but this time with five bullets in the revolver, seeing it as his last chance to leave the path of a killer. Yassen once again survives, and kills Sharkovsky.
The final chapter strongly resembles the last chapter of Stormbreaker, except it is seen through Yassen's point of view, and gives the true reasons for his decisions. It reveals that Yassen became a professional killer largely to prove John's beliefs about him wrong. He kills Herod Sayle, not because of orders from Scorpia (though he believes they will eventually want Sayle killed), but so he could talk with Alex. He chooses to disregard Scorpia's order to kill the boy, feeling that he still owes John his life, and tells him not to become a spy, since he still feels that Alex has a chance at a normal life.
Initial reception has been good for this novel.
It released on 12 September 2013 (UK) and 9 December 2013 (US).