||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (September 2010)|
|Cover artist||Michael Eaton|
|Series||Alex Rider series|
|Genre||Adventure, Spy novel, thriller novel|
|Australia: 28 September 2007
UK: 31 October 2007
US: 13 November 2007
|ISBN||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.
After destroying the Ark Angel space hotel at the end of Ark Angel, Alex Rider falls from space and lands in the South Pacific. He is picked up by the USS Kitty Hawk, an American aircraft carrier doubling as a "hospital at sea", where he recovers from his trip into space. He then travels to a military base owned by the Australian SAS and goes on a barbecue with a few of the soldiers, only to find himself on a war field by accident, which he manages to escape. He later learns that the war zone he stumbled onto was in fact a test of courage and stamina orchestrated by ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service) director Ethan Brooke to prove to their agents that Alex is as tough as his reputation suggests.
Meanwhile, the criminal organisation Scorpia is hired to assassinate eight celebrities who are hosting a "Make Poverty History"-type conference, at the same time as the G8 summit, on an island off the north-west coast of Australia. 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".
Meanwhile, Ethan Brooke, head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), coerces Alex into helping him investigate Yu's illegal immigration operation by pairing him with agent Ash, who was Alex's godfather and one of his father's best friends. 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 order to 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.
As part of the deal to ensure their passage, Alex is taken to an illegal Muay Thai boxing arena by a member of the snakehead and pitted against the snakehead's toughest fighter, Sunthorn. Alex wins by spitting water on Sunthorn. The unexpected victory incites a riot, but Alex manages to escape when someone cuts the lights and attacks. Later on, Alex meets the attacker, who is revealed to be Fox, now working for MI6. Him and Mrs Jones convince Alex to look for Royal Blue while investigating the snakehead.
The snakehead is still willing to take Ash and Alex to Australia, and they go on to Jakarta, Indonesia, the next step of their journey. Despite a brush with Kopassus, the Indonesian special forces, 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 exploding coins (given to him by MI6), and explores the ship. He eventually finds Royal Blue, and sees 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 then escapes the ship using another coin. Ash is caught and held hostage, forcing Alex to surrender.
Alex is invited to tea with Yu, who reveals his plan. He will use Royal Blue to create an artificial tsunami that will kill the eight celebrities, before hitting the coast of Australia, with the resultant destruction overshadowing the deaths of Scorpia's targets. Yu has Alex sent to a hospital in the Australian outback where he is to be used as a donor for illegal organ transplants. Alex escapes using his final exploding coin to improvise a kayak from a seaplane pontoon, and later manages to contact MI6 and ASIS. 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 a botched mission to kill a drug dealer which had left Ash with severe internal injuries. Ash also reveals, before dying of his injuries, that he put the bomb on the plane that Alex's parents were on. Yu escapes and triggers the sinking of Royal Blue, but Alex detonates it early. The only casualty is Yu, who is killed when the shock wave shatters his skeleton, weakened by osteoporosis.
At the end of the novel, Jack Starbright, Alex's housekeeper, calls a mysterious person over for dinner, Alex is surprised to see that the guest is Sabina Pleasure, his friend who moved to San Francisco after the events of Eagle Strike.
The paperback edition of the book features a bonus chapter at the end, titled "Coda". Told entirely in the passive, third person voice, it describes the day that Ash detonated the bomb on the plane Alex's parents were on.
- Official website of the Alex Rider Series
- Official Anthony Horowitz's website
- Snakehead at Walker Books
- SnakeHead at Goodreads