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Alex Rider - in the jaws of death

—Crocodile Tears tagline

Crocodile Tears (originally to be entitled Endurance Point) is the eighth book in the Alex Rider series by British author Anthony Horowitz.

Summary

Walker Books

Alex Rider's eighth adventure and the most action-packed yet...

Targeted by a hitman and under threat of his past being exposed by the media. Alex turns to MI6 for help but their help doesn't come cheap: they need Alex to spy on the activities at a GM crop plant. There he spots Desmond McCain, a high profile charity organizer, who realizes that Alex is on to him and the real plans for the money he's raising. Kidnapped and flown off to Africa, Alex learns the full horror of McCain's plot: to create an epic disaster that will kill millions. Forced to ask MI6 for protection, Alex finds himself being manipulated in a deadly game that could lead to the destruction of an entire East African country, but Alex manages to kill Desmond McCain in the end.

Plot

An engineering technician, Ravi Chandra, plants a bomb in the nuclear reactor of the Jowada Nuclear Power Station in India, after being persuaded to do so by a European man who promises him a lot of rewards. However, the bomb explodes when activated, killing Chandra, the European having lied that there was a ten-minute countdown. Among the charities to respond to the disaster is First Aid, a British charity known for its unfailing generosity and being there as soon as possible.

Six months later, Alex Rider is on vacation with Sabina Pleasure and her family in Scotland, and they go to the New Year's Eve party in Kilmore Castle; however, Sabina's mother, Liz Pleasure, is unable to go, after falling ill with influenza. During the journey, Sabina's father, Edward Pleasure, tells Alex about their host Desmond McCain; the story involves how McCain was found, as a baby, abandoned in a bag of McCain's Oven Chips (which is where his name comes from), his time as a professional boxer, becoming a property developer and Conservative MP, imprisonment for fraud, and apparent conversion to Christianity and founding a charity. During the party, Alex meets McCain himself and is drawn into a game of Texas Hold'Em poker with him and another man, Leonard Straik. Alex ends up winning the game, and twenty-five thousand pounds, but decides to donate all the money he wins to First Aid (McCain's charity). When they are driving back home, one of their car's tires blows and it plunges into the loch below. Alex frees Sabina and Edward from the sunken car wreck which almost kills them. They wash up on the shore and luckily all three are rescued by a man named Rahim, whose origins are currently unknown. Despite his doubts that it was a sniper, Alex ignores it and returns to London.

While on his way back from school one day soon after, Alex walks to Brompton Cemetery and visits the grave of his uncle, Ian Rider. However, while there, he is ambushed by three Chinese men, who claim that they have come for revenge for Major Yu, and they try to kill him. Alex uses his karate skills to defend himself from the men and leaves, unaware that his movements are being tracked. He and Jack Starbright are then visited by a freelance journalist called Harry Bulman, who is aware of Alex's past missions with MI6 and offers to break the story; he also reveals that he had set up the ambush the previous day. Alex, fearing his life is spinning out of control, contacts MI6. He meets Alan Blunt and Mrs Jones, who tell him to gather information on Leonard Straik while on his upcoming school trip to Greenfields Bio Centre (where Straik works as Director), and in exchange, they will threaten Bulman into maintaining absolute silence. Alex reluctantly agrees, and is supplied with gadgets by Smithers. As the mission involves getting access to Straik's computer, one gadget is a memory stick disguised as an eraser; the other gadgets include two exploding gel pens, a diamond-edged knife disguised as a pencil sharpener, a CCTV camera jammer and communicator disguised as a pocket calculator, and a disguised swipe card that opens any door in conjunction with a reprogrammer built into a lead-lined pencil case. Thereafter, MI6 Chief of Staff John Crawley devises a plan entitled ‘Operation Invisible Man’, which involves putting out news that Bulman is dead, that he “is” his own killer and not letting him return to his flat, as well as draining his bank accounts and stealing his car. Afterwards, he meets Bulman and makes it clear that his life will be over if he ever tries to approach Alex again or break the story.

Meanwhile, Alex's school class goes on a field trip to Greenfields' offices. Alex has his friend, Tom Harris, cover for him as he breaks away from the group to infiltrate Straik's office, using a locator map disguised as a postcard. He succeeds in breaking in and downloading the entire contents of Straik's computer, but Straik appears and he is forced to hide behind a large mirror. He recognises Straik as the other man from the poker game and is shocked to find McCain there. McCain and Straik discuss an operation involving a living chemical created by Greenfields, before Straik notices that his office has been broken into, and orders the guards to hunt and eliminate the intruder. Alex steals a sample of a sort of mushroom soup from Straik's desk, and narrowly escapes the compound guards (and the deadly Poison Dome), rejoining his friends as they drive away when the trip is cut short, on orders of Straik. Alex takes the mushroom soup sample to MI6. Samantha Redwing, the Chief Science Officer, analyses the sample but cannot make out anything dangerous about it. Meanwhile, whilst looking on CCTV surveillance with Straik and Dr Myra Bennett (the Greenfields supervisor, and McCain's fiancée), McCain recognises Alex and puts out the word for information. McCain meets Bulman and the journalist tells him about Rider. McCain, distrusting Bulman, kills him and has him buried under the construction site for a homeless shelter run by First Aid. At this point, Blunt and Jones are still trying to figure out the relevance of the stolen sample.

Alex is sent to the school principal, Henry Bray, and receives one day's suspension after apparently falling through the emergency door of the coach on the school trip, and getting badly injured; the injuries really came from his chase at Greenfields. With a day free to himself, Alex researches something called "Elm's Cross", having heard it mentioned by Straik and McCain at Greenfields, and comes across a closed-down film studio near Heathrow Airport. Investigating, he comes across a mock-up of a dead African village (which is later revealed to be where McCain and co. are filming an appeal video for First Aid), before the studio is set on fire by Bennett. Alex barely escapes with his life by crawling through an air vent.

After McCain finds out about Alex's secret life with MI6, Alex is kidnapped by Bennett whilst on his way to school the next day and is flown, under the guise of a severely brain-damaged sixteen-year-old, to the disused Simba Camp in Kenya, which McCain owns. The next day, Bennett takes Alex out in a Piper J-3 Cub crop duster and makes him apply the contents of the plane over the fields. McCain meets him and tells him, over a dinner of ostrich that night, about his plan: to bring about a biblical plague that will destroy half the continent of Africa to earn billions of dollars, pounds, euros and other currencies through a fake charity appeal by First Aid (showing the Elm's Cross video), arguing that his plan comes from a lifetime belief that money is power and respect. The mushroom soup (which is what Alex applied to the field that morning, without knowing what it is) is the living chemical, and it is actually an activating agent that transforms wheat fields into lethal weapons harbouring ricin, a natural toxin. He also tells Alex that he has murdered Straik and Bulman, as well as revealing his engagement to Bennett and that Bennett was the one who shot out the tires on the car in Scotland.

The next day, McCain interrogates Alex, torturing him by making him hang over a river which is infested with crocodiles. McCain will only get rid of the crocodiles if Alex tells him the right information. Alex tells him the truth, but McCain seemingly changes his mind and leaves him with the crocodiles. Bennett stays to watch from the observation platform, as well as to video it for McCain's benefit. Suddenly, Bennett is stabbed from behind by the man who saved Alex in Scotland, who is Rahim, and she is torn apart by the crocodiles after she falls into the river. Rahim rescues Alex and tears up Alex's shirt in an attempt to fool McCain into thinking he was the one who was eaten by the crocodiles. Rahim explains that he is an Indian RAW operative attempting to exact revenge on McCain for what he did in the power plant. Alex and Rahim quickly escape and Alex sends a message to MI6 through RAW.

When Rahim passes out due to sickness, Alex takes it upon himself to message RAW and MI6 and then destroy the crops, while the new Prime Minister summons Blunt and Mrs Jones to discuss Alex's message and authorising an RAF attack on the fields, as well as telling Blunt that he cannot use Alex any more. While McCain's guards try and stop him, Alex blows up the Simba Dam, killing them and flooding the valley, destroying the poisoned crops before the RAF can arrive. He is rescued by Rahim again on the crop duster, which he has stolen, and they fly away. However, when they land for refuelling at Laikipia, McCain appears and shoots Rahim dead. Alex tries to get away but dislocates his ankle in the process. Just as McCain is about to shoot him, Alex uses a leaking petrol drum and a gelignite pen to initiate an explosion that sets McCain on fire, burning him to death. However, Alex is also badly burned by the flames.

A few weeks later, as Alex recuperates in St. Dominic's Hospital in London for the second time, Mrs. Jones and Jack meet and confirm that this was his last mission. Jack congratulates Alex that it's his fifteenth birthday shortly and promises him that MI6 won't ever use him again.

Trivia

  • Contrary to popular belief, MI6 did not let Alex live a normal life after this story, since they were forced to contact him yet again during the next novel.
  • McCain is the second character who attempts to kill Alex despite the boy telling the truth. The first such character who did this was Conrad.
  • The book's name is a reference to tears shed out of false, insincere display of sadness.
  • The way that McCain dies is very similar to how James Bond kills Franz Sanchez in License to Kill.

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Sources

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Crocodile Tears Characters
Main Characters
Alex RiderAlan BluntTulip JonesJack StarbrightDesmond McCainSabina PleasureLeonard Straik
Other Key Characters
Edward PleasureSmithersLiz PleasureJohn CrawleyRavi ChandraHarry BulmanMyra BennettRahim
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