The book started off well, with a thrilling prologue describing an assassination attempt that nearly went wrong which took place before Alex was born. And the way that Alex got drawn into adventure was well done. But once we find out who the arch-villain is, the story got a bit too much like parody. The problem was not so much the implausibility of the plot - the previous storylines would all strain credulity if you took them seriously - as that it felt as if the author had a checklist of Bond style elements to use up regardless of whether they would help the story. So we get a loopy megalomaniac villain who's built some kind of life-size version of a RPG computer game which Alex has to negotiate; a customized bicycle with loads of gadgets to help evade capture; the hijacking of Air Force One, and nuclear missiles. These are all very dramatic, but it did feel rather at the expense of original plotting.
I read that the publication date for this book was brought forward so as not to co-incide with the next Potter release, and wonder if maybe he took less time to write it than he ought to have done. Oh well, hopefully the next one will mark a return to form.
Completed : 26-Apr-2003