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First edition cover
|Series||Alex Rider series|
|Genre||Adventure, Spy novel, thriller novel|
|Australia: 28 September 2007
UK: 31 October 2007
US: 13 November 2007
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|ISBN||978-1-4063-0935-5 (first edition, hardback) and ISBN 978-1-4063-0572-2 (paperback)|
|Preceded by||Ark Angel|
|Followed by||Crocodile Tears|
Snakehead is the seventh novel in the Alex Rider series written by British author Anthony Horowitz. The book was released in Australia on 28 September 2007, in the United Kingdom on 31 October 2007, and in the US on 13 November 2007. The title comes from the name given to Asian gangs involved in people smuggling illegal passports, visas, weapons, and more. Snakehead takes place directly after the events of Ark Angel, with Alex finding himself in Australian waters where he landed at the end of that story.
Snakehead was shortlisted for the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize.
The story picks up moments before Ark Angel ended. Alex Rider lands in the South Pacific after falling from outer space. He is picked up by the USS Kitty Hawk, a US Aircraft Carrier doubling as a "hospital at sea", where he recovers from his trip into space. He then goes to a military base and goes on a barbecue with a few of the guys and finds himself on a war field by accident. Meanwhile, the criminal organization SCORPIA is hired to assassinate eight celebrities who are hosting a "make poverty history"-type conference on Reef Island, an island off the north-west coast of Australia, using a bomb (which they do not yet have possession of), at the same time as the G8 summit. The deaths must look accidental. Scorpia board member Winston Yu, the head of a powerful Asian snakehead gang, is charged with this mission. Two days later, SCORPIA agents break into a Ministry of Defence weapons research centre and steal a prototype bomb codenamed "Royal Blue", a more powerful version of the daisy cutter.
Ethan Brooke, head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) coerces Alex into helping him about by pairing him with agent Ash, who was his godfather and once his father's best friends, to investigate the snakehead ring.
Alex travels to Bangkok where Ash explains their plan; he and Alex will take on the identities of Afghan refugees who have paid the snakehead to smuggle them into Australia. In this way they can identify important members of the snakehead and find out how they smuggle the refugees. They are given disguises and sent to an area in Chinatown to await contact from the snakehead.
Alex is taken to an illegal Muay Thai boxing arena by a member of the snakehead and put up against the snakehead's toughest fighter, Sunthorn. Alex wins by spitting water into Sunthorn's face. The unexpected victory incites a riot, but Alex manages to escape when someone (later revealed to be a MI6 agent) cuts the lights and attacks.
The next day, while Ash goes to the snakehead to see where things stand, Alex tails a suspicious-looking man who has been observing him since he landed in Bangkok. The man turns the tables and captures him, but Alex finds that he is Ben Daniels, an MI6 agent who had trained with him before (as "Fox" in the first edition, "Wolf" in later editions). Alex is then briefed about "Royal Blue" by Tulip Jones, and learns that Major Yu is a member of SCORPIA. He agrees to try and locate Royal Blue for MI6, and is given several gadgets by Smithers use, including a watch with a homing beacon for MI6 to find him, three exploding Thai coins (one baht, five baht, and ten baht) and a belt equipped with jungle survival gear.
The snakehead is still willing to take Ash and Alex to Australia. They go on to Jakarta, Indonesia, the next step of their journey. Despite a brush with Kopashisus, the Indonesian special forces, in the snakehead's toy factory, Alex and Ash make it to a port, and discover a container ship, the Liberian Star. The two of them are separated and put into separate containers, which are loaded onto the ship. While the boat is at sea, Alex escapes by using one of his coins, and explores the ship. He eventually finds Royal Blue, and sees Major Yu scanning his fingerprints into a machine that will give him sole control over the bomb. Once Yu is gone, Alex scans his own fingerprints into Royal Blue and goes into hiding when Major Yu, who heard that there is a boy who escaped from the containers, orders that he be captured or killed. The next day, Alex then escapes the ship using another coin. After this Ash is caught and held hostage, forcing Alex to surrender.
Alex is then knocked on the head and falls into unconsciousness and is captured by Yu. When Alex wakes up he is invited to dinner with Yu, however his drink is drugged causing Alex to become weak and he finally faints. Alex is sent to a hospital in the Australian rainforest where he is to be used as a donor for illegal organ transplants. Alex escapes using his final exploding coin. After kayaking down the river and being shot at Alex attempts to contact MI6. Alex discovers that there is no battery in his watch, and shorts a circuit from a battery in his trainers and is rescued by MI6. Along with Ben Daniels, Alex is sent as part of an SAS team to the oil rig where Royal Blue will be detonated.
On the oil rig, Alex and Ben confront Yu and his assistant; Ben shoots the assistant, who is revealed to be Ash; he had become a double agent for SCORPIA following the botched mission to kill a drug dealer. Yu escapes and triggers the sinking of Royal Blue. Alex detonates it early and it goes off relatively harmlessly; the only casualty is Yu, who is killed in the resulting shock wave due to his inordinately fragile bone structure.
At the end of the novel, Jack Starbright, Alex's housekeeper, calls a mysterious person over for dinner. Alex is surprised to see the guest is Sabina Pleasure, his old friend who moved to San Francisco after the events of Eagle Strike.