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Desmond McCain: Money is power, and I was going to have more than you could possibly imagine. I'm going to shoot you now. Not once, but several times and then I'm going to walk away. Goodbye, Alex. You're going on a slow journey to hell.
Alex Rider: Let me know what it's like.

—Desmond McCain's final confrontation with Alex Rider before his death.

Reverend Desmond McCain is the main antagonist in Crocodile Tears, the eighth Alex Rider novel.


McCain began life with nothing—he had no known parents or family; Edward Pleasure says that McCain was found as a baby in a shopping trolley, wrapped in a plastic bag (McCain Oven Chips, which explains his name). But he was given good fortune after being taken in by a foster family in London and although he appreciated their goodness, he became aware that do-gooders needed victims, otherwise they couldn't do good.

Being the only black boy at a London school meant that McCain was bullied by his peers. However, his education setbacks did not stop him, as he was quick on his feet, becoming a boxer, training at a gym in Limehouse. Eventually, he became professional. Even his sporting career showed that he was a violent man, with he himself knocking a man out and thinking that he was dead; he said he was satisfied.

McCain's boxing career went well, winning several titles and belts; however, this career came to an end when, in 1983, during a world championship match in New York's Madison Square Gardens, he was knocked out by his opponent, Buddy Sangster. This not only ended McCain's boxing career, but broke his jaw; his boxing manager foolishly sent him to a plastic surgery clinic in Las Vegas, which botched the operation. McCain was left unable to eat, only being able to consume liquid food. He arranged for the deaths of both the surgeon and Buddy Sangster, by using The Gentleman, who pushed Sangster in front of a train.

With his boxing career in tatters, McCain was forced to move back in with his foster parents. His foster father helped him get a job as an estate agent, which he excelled in, enjoying the work, and being in the company of other estate agents. It was easy for him to become rich, in part given his brief fame in boxing. Eventually, he became a financial donor to the Conservative Party, and in due course, joined the party and was elected as an MP for a seat which had voted for the Labour Party as far back as anybody could remember. He eventually became a junior minister for the Department of Sports, and there were even rumours that he could be the UK's first black Prime Minister.

However, at this time, McCain's business ventures were not performing well. One of the tower blocks he had built was overdrawn, and he was at risk of bankruptcy, something which MPs cannot be. He decided to set fire to the tower in order to defraud his insurers and reclaim the money that way. Although he did the deed, his career in Parliament came to an end, because a homeless man who had been sleeping in the en-suite car park of the tower confessed to the police that he had seen McCain appear with burning materials. As a result, McCain was tried for fraud, found guilty and imprisoned for nine years.

McCain was bullied in prison, to the extent that the hospital wing had a bed reserved for him, and that he actually considered suicide, but he planned a comeback.


McCain converted to Christianity because people like redeemed sinners. In prison, he read the Bible, and talked to the prison chaplain, "a pompous fool who couldn't see past the end of his own dog collar" and took a course over the Internet, which allowed him to be ordained as a Reverend in an obscure church. His knowledge of the Bible was such that he could recite quotes in conversation.

McCain was released from prison early, announced his redemption, and established his own charity; First Aid, which was said to be first on the scene of disasters. Many people believed First Aid was a good charity because they seemed to be efficient and get everything done. At India's Jowada Power Plant disaster in 2004, for example, it could have killed everyone in the city. But thanks to First Aid, it was stopped, because they were first on the scene, to give out food, blankets and potassium iodate tablets.

What the authorities didn't know was that Reverend McCain hadn't redeemed himself at all - he was still pure evil. He was using his redemption as a cover. All his life, McCain had believed that money was the true God, wanting nothing more than to be rich, believing that money was what made people worship talented people, such as pop stars and footballers. In order to achieve their sums of money, McCain believed that charity was a foolproof way to get rich. He himself had caused the Jowada explosion, by bribing an engineer, Ravi Chandra, to carry ten kilos of C4 into the pump room and blow up one of the pumps. The bomb was put, but it killed Chandra, as McCain's men had lied to him, claiming the bomb had a ten-minute fuse, allowing enough time for him to leave the city and receive enough money for his wife and two young sons.

McCain wasn't happy about the explosion; it didn't have the catastrophic affect he had anticipated. But he made a profit from his own disaster. He hoarded all the money he saved from the disasters he created over the years, and planned to use the money to make himself a new identity in the future.

Scotland, 2006

McCain hosted a black tie New Years' Eve party at Loch Arkaig in Scotland, in order to raise funds for his charity, and himself by extension. However, this party would partially prove to be his undoing; one of the guests was journalist Edward Pleasure, who had interviewed McCain for Gentleman's Quarterly magazine. Pleasure decided to bring his daughter, Sabina, and her 'friend', Alex Rider, with him, in place of his sick wife, Liz. McCain met Alex in the castle's library, which was being used as a casino. McCain (who seemed friendly at this point) and Alex played poker, with three other people and McCain's associate Leonard Straik, whom McCain called "Leo" during the game. Eventually, it became just McCain and Alex, with McCain's darkness and arrogance becoming more and more apparent during the game, which seemed to culminate with McCain winning. But Alex eventually won, with a hand full of aces, and a horrified McCain admitted defeat. Alex won over £25,000, but decided to donate it to First Aid.

Later on, McCain saw Alex talking to Edward Pleasure about genetically modified crops. Alarmed that Edward possibly knew too much, McCain hurried downstairs to interrupt, but Edward relaxed on seeing his host; it is later established that Alex was merely talking about school. Soon, Edward, Sabina and Alex left the party, bored. On the way home, Reverend McCain had his fiancée, Myra Bennett, shoot out Edward's tires, and this caused Edward's second-near death when his car crashed into the Loch. He almost drowned, but Alex and an Indian agent saved them.

Kidnapping Alex

Alex returned to London, only to discover a journalist chasing him. He reluctantly went to MI6 for protection; in return from discouraging the journalist, they wanted him to investigate Greenfields, a chemistry and bio-organism centre outside Salisbury, run by Leonard Straik. MI6 had been contacted by a whistleblower called Philip Masters, who wanted to tell them about something majorly important; unfortunately, he was killed before their meeting could take place. Alex goes on a school trip (which he suspects MI6 organised) with a class to Greenfields, and breaks away from the group to investigate. However, he is trapped in Straik's office when Straik comes in, and Alex is confused to see McCain there too.

McCain asked if the "shipment" was ready, and Straik spoke about the shipment being somewhat alive. When Straik suspected an intruder after finding a memory stick that was previously left in his computer had been taken out (by Alex, who was sent to gather the contents of the computer), McCain was amused rather than worried. When his men searched the whole plant for an intruder and found Alex without 'really' finding him, McCain noticed Alex amongst the Brooklands crowd in the picture the CCTV had taken. McCain vowed revenge on Alex, saying it was twice he had crossed him, both with humiliating results.

After meeting the journalist who had been tailing Alex, McCain had a delivery team kidnap Alex outside his home street, complete with a false policeman. Alex was bundled out of the country with the help of Dr Myra Bennett, who humiliated Alex by dressing him in a mental patient's clothes, cutting his hair really short, and making him take a water hemlock-like drug that attacked his muscles, making him look severely disabled. Dr Bennett used the prejudices of passengers to avoid attention, which worked.

Dr Bennett took Alex to Kenya in Africa; this made sense, because Edward Pleasure had told Alex that McCain was the part-owner of a Kenyan business, later revealed to be the disused former Simba River Camp. Dr Bennett made Alex fly in a crop duster on McCain's orders, unwittingly spraying a field with mushroom fertiliser, which would trigger a mutation in the gene, causing the crops to produce Ricin (a toxic substance) and kill anybody or anything who consume it.

Reverend McCain himself appeared that night, and showed Alex his plan, both online and personally. Reverend McCain expressed his desire to move out to Australia or somewhere with Dr Bennett and marry her, become billionaires and live a luxurious life as a shady businessman. He showed Alex a pre-arranged charity appeal video that First Aid had made in a disused film studio, a convincing mock-up of a dead African village. As Greenfields had sold genetically modified seeds to several countries in Africa, the plague would strike them as well. He then revealed that Alex would be responsible for the deaths that would follow, because it was he himself who had sprayed the activating agent, in the crop duster.

Reverend McCain had Alex tortured the next morning, using a gruesome method: he hung Alex for a couple of minutes over a river full of hungry, sinister crocodiles, which were eager to get Alex. Reverend McCain had done this many times with many people and he knew how to make it as slow as possible, remarking that one man, who had been hanging there for eighteen minutes, was driven insane, and was laughing as he fell to his doom.

Eventually, McCain got the truth from Alex, that MI6 had told him to visit Greenfields, but that he wasn't working for them. Despite promising Alex's freedom if he told the truth, Reverend McCain left him to die there for being so meddlesome. He walked away and told Dr Bennett to have pictures of Alex's death ready.

Soon, McCain's guards reported that Bennett herself had been eaten by the crocodiles and, impossibly, Alex had escaped.

McCain sent all his men out to get Alex, but even this failed when Alex got to the Simba dam ahead of the men, and blew it up, destroying Reverend McCain's poisoned wheat field and preventing his plague from spreading - thus eliminating the Prime Minister's (implied to be Gordon Brown) risk of fighter jets which, Alan Blunt said, would increase the risk of contamination.

His plague and dreams destroyed, Reverend McCain flew to an airfield in Laikipia, and he shot the Indian spy who saved Alex at his castle and his torture, and marched over to Alex for the final showdown. McCain bellowed that he would have Alex beg and act like a child for once, and aimed his pistol, firing at Alex, but Alex ducked. McCain knelt on an oil drum, and aimed at Alex, saying Alex was on his way to Hell. Alex said "Let me know what it's like there;" he had left his exploding pen on McCain's oil drum, which exploded, igniting and burning the evil priest to death.

Physical Appearance

Desmond was an immensely large and powerfully-built black man due to his boxing career. He was bald, with grey eyes and an incredible aura of extravagance and power. He wore a crucifix in his ear, a sign of his supposed turn to Christianity during his prison sentence. His most distinguishing feature was that his face was permanently, devastatingly marred after Buddy Sangster beat him in his boxing career by dislocating his jaw, and the plastic surgery went wrong, leaving one side of his face almost out of sync with the rest of his skull.


When the dying begins, just remember. It wasn't me who started it. It was you.

—Desmond McCain to Alex Rider

Desmond was intelligent, ambitious, ruthless, eccentric, resourceful, and extremely cynical. He was a determined social climber to the point of being as greedy hypocrite. In public view, he was incredibly warm and greeted his friends and acquaintances with kindness and generosity. However, he concealed a bitter, murderous and independent side that was, all in all, malevolent and villainous. Desmond showed bitterness towards his racial bullying as a child, and claimed that it had stayed with him all his life. He was also a cold-blooded sadist who enjoyed causing pain. He expressed this during his boxing career and demonstrated it again when torturing Alex Rider with the lake of crocodiles. His breakdown occurred when Alex foiled his schemes and he lost his self-control altogether.

Bible quotes

  • Corinthians 19:24 - 'We are all running the race but only one receives the prize', spoken during his poker game with Alex
  • 1 Samuel 23:7 - 'God has delivered you into my hands', spoken during his meeting with Straik; this is incorrectly credited as being from the Book of Timothy
  • Deuteronomy 32:20 - 'For they are a wicked generation, children who have no faith', spoken after hearing about Alex's MI6 involvement
  • Revelations 1:18 - 'Behold, I have the keys of death and hell', gloating about his plague
  • Romans 12:19 - 'Vengeance is mine. I will repay, sayeth the Lord', one of his last lines


  • Photo: none
  • General information: various sources, including but not limited to:


  • His death is strikingly similar to Franz Sanchez, the main antagonist from the Bond movie License to Kill.
Crocodile Tears Characters
Main Characters
Alex RiderAlan BluntTulip JonesJack StarbrightDesmond McCainSabina PleasureLeonard Straik
Other Key Characters
Edward PleasureSmithersLiz PleasureJohn CrawleyRavi ChandraHarry BulmanMyra BennettRahim