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This article is about the book. For other uses, please see Scorpia (disambiguation).

Once stung, twice as deadly. Alex Rider wants revenge

—Scorpia tagline

Scorpia is the fifth book in the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz.

This edition currently not available in North America.


After a revelation with Yassen Gregorovich, Alex sets off with his friend [1]Tom Harris in Venice to track down the mysterious organization known only to Alex as Scorpia. A chance encounter with one of the top agents of Scorpia reveals a sinister plot to change all of London. Now, Alex must return to his old life in MI6 and risk his life to save thousands of children. Will he stay with MI6, who have betrayed him, or join Scorpia and get his revenge?


In a homage to the beginning of the James Bond movies, the story start with the prologue-like introduction of a terrorist organization called SCORPIA, its chief executive currently Julia Rothman. She discusses with her fellow members about her final stage of her plan, codenamed Operation Invisible Sword, but one of them, Max Grendel, is unwilling to go through with the plan. He announces his resignation, saying he would prefer to retire. Julia goes out with him and sends Max to his waiting boat. Before he goes, she gives him a silver box and tells him to open it once he gets to the boat. He does, but the box is filled with scorpions. As a result, the neurotoxin kills Max, but it is later established that his heart gave out long before this, from shock.

Alex Rider goes on a school trip to Venice in order to investigate Scorpia (an acronym for Sabotage, CORruPtion, Intelligence and Assassination"), an organization that carries out acts of terrorism for money, having been told to do so by Yassen Gregorovitch if he wished to learn about his father. With the help of his best friend Tom Harris, Alex manages to sneak into a party hosted by Rothman, and in her private office, discovers evidence linking the organization to a pharmaceutical company called Consanto Enterprises. Before Alex can learn more, he is confronted by a white tiger, but the animal is 'deactivated' by Nile, a Scorpia agent who overpowers him and seals him in a room that will flood as the Venice tide increases, drowning him. Alex manages to escape into the Grand Canal.

With the help of Tom's older brother Jerry, Alex BASE jumps into Consanto Enterprises, and is eventually confronted by Dr. Liebermann, the head of the company. Nile shows up, but much to Alex's surprise, he kills Liebermann rather than Alex and offers to take Alex to see Rothman, destroying the facility in the process. While having dinner with her, Alex is told that his father was a SCORPIA agent, and was not killed in a plane crash as MI6 claimed, but was apparently murdered by them while being exchanged for one of SCORPIA's hostages, on the orders of none other than Mrs Jones. After hearing this, Alex decides he wants to join SCORPIA and begins his training at their "school" (Training and Assessment Centre) on the island of Malagosto, an island near Venice. He becomes a top student, but his instructors become concerned upon learning that he has a reluctance to kill.

Meanwhile, SCORPIA sends a list of political demands for the American government to 10 Downing Street in London; these demands include the President of the United States resigning at once, one hundred million dollars being paid to the World Bank, the Americans withdrawing all their military and secret service forces from every country on Earth, and destroying their long-range nuclear weapons programme and long-range conventional weapons systems within six months. SCORPIA warns that if the demands are not followed through forty-eight hours from issue, then they will use a weapon codenamed Invisible Sword to carry out a massacre of children in London (just as Sayle threatened to in the first book). As a demonstration, SCORPIA use the weapon on the England National Football Team reserves as they return from a tournament in Africa. Despite the best efforts of the British security services, the military and police, the team are all killed by some as yet inexplicable means. SCORPIA takes advantage of the chaos at the airport to smuggle Alex back into the country, where he attempts to murder Mrs Jones, his instructors believing the promise of revenge will make him more willing to kill. Though Alex is willing to fire a gun at Mrs. Jones, it hits an invisible pane of bulletproof glass (which was made by Smithers), and he is captured by MI6. Alex later learns that he turned the gun away at the last moment.

After a night in MI6's containment cells, Alex is met by Alan Blunt, who convinces him to help stop Scorpia's operation, and they attend a meeting of COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms; the last acronym A does not officially exist and is simply a placeholder) to plan on a course of action. Based on Alex's observations, the group deduce that SCORPIA has secretly added a lethal poison to a number of vaccines at Consanto Enterprises, including the yellow fever vaccines given to the football team, and the BCG injections recently received by London schoolchildren. They also figure out that SCORPIA can activate the poison at will using terahertz beams. A search of the city for the dishes that will transmit the terahertz beams begins, but Jones and Blunt suspect that there is more to SCORPIA's plan that meets the eye. They fake Alex's escape from MI6 custody to enable him to rejoin Rothman and learn the true location of the terahertz dishes. Alex himself later realises that SCORPIA intend to kill him, after remembering being injected by the Training and Assessment Centre's psychiatrist.

Rothman decides to let Alex see the true project, by taking him to the deconsecrated Church of Forgotten Saints. Alex discovers that Rothman intends to use a hot air balloon to lift the dishes into position, keeping them out of sight until SCORPIA's deadline. He also learns that SCORPIA's plan is to destroy the special relationship between the UK and the US forever. The demands to the Americans were deliberately made unattractive to them; once Invisible Sword has been used, SCORPIA will threaten the Americans with the weapon in New York, while making more lenient demands, intending to make them look unwilling to help their allies and turn them into an international pariah. Alex alerts MI6 to the launch site's location with a tracking device disguised as a mouth brace, but gives himself away when he reveals his knowledge that children will be the primary target of the attack. A joint MI6-SAS assault force sent to follow Alex launches an attack on the launch site, and Alex uses the distraction to climb onto the balloon, closely followed by Nile. He manages to destroy the balloon, Nile getting himself killed in the process, and the terahertz equipment is destroyed: Alex survives by clinging onto the balloon. Rothman disguises herself as an old lady attempting to slip away, but is later crushed to death by the falling terahertz platform.

A week later, Alex learns that John was in fact an MI6 double agent within SCORPIA, and that his death at the hostage exchange had been faked, in order to both get him out of SCORPIA and allow him to retire from the spy world. Alex's parents had indeed been killed in a plane crash, shortly after he had been born, arranged by Rothman once she learned of John's betrayal. As Alex leaves MI6's headquarters, he is shot by a Scorpia assassin in retaliation for his actions, and the story ends on a cliff-hanger.

NOTE: There is another version of this book where Tom and Alex go to Venice on a summer school trip and the woman whose purse Alex saves is the school secretary and Alex makes a quip to her about where he learned such skills based on a comment she had been overheard making. There are other differences as well.  



  • Lincolnshire Young People's Book Award
  • Grampian Children's Book Award
  • Berkshire Book Award
  • Gateshead Children's Book Award
  • Galaxy British Book Awards: The Children's Book of the Year
  • Doncaster Children's Book of the Year Award
  • Redbridge Children's Book Award
  • BAA and Expedia Book Awards
  • Berkshire Book Award
  • Lancashire Children's Book of the Year
  • Salford Children's Book Award
  • Staffordshire Young Teen Fiction Award
  • Lancashire Fantastic Book Award

Useful links


  • This is so far the only book where Alex Rider does not learn of the antagonist's plan from meeting the villain. Instead, he has a conference with other main characters.


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Scorpia Characters
Main Characters
Alex RiderAlan BluntTulip JonesJack StarbrightJulia RothmanNile
Other Key Characters
Graham AdairSmithersMark KellnerGeorge AdairTom HarrisJerry HarrisHarold Liebermann