Russian Roulette by Anthony Horowitz
I should start by saying that I am a huge fan of the Alex Rider books. I came to them long after they had had all been published. I bought them as a boxed set and “chain read” them. Although I enjoyed them hugely, I’m not sure if I can quite forgive Horowitz for the death of one of his characters in the final instalment.
Russian Roulette is not an Alex Rider novel but is instead about Yassen Gregorovich the Russian assassin who kills Alex Riders’ uncle at the start of Stormbreaker. The book starts with Gregorovich receiving a message via a fake ebay account to kill Alex Rider. It is after receiving this message that Gregorovich opens up his personal diary and so the story of how a fourteen-year-old boy growing up six hundred miles from Moscow grows up to be an assassin.
Russian Roulette is a prequel to Stormbreaker but has parallels to the first Alex Rider book as it is an origin story. Gregorovich really is an ordinary boy that is thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Alex Rider is not an ordinary boy. Rider’s uncle and his father before him were highly trained spies. Alex has, unbeknown to him, been trained by his uncle in a variety of skills necessary for the budding secret agent. Gregorovich, on the other hand, has had no such training. Gregorovich has a survival instinct that carries him through what is a much darker book than Stormbreaker. Russian Roulette is a gruelling but compelling read. Where Alex Riders’ skills are nurtured by his uncle, Gregorovich’s skills come from betrayal, brutalisation and a conflicted desire for revenge.
Russian Roulette takes Gregorovich from the safety of his home town to petty crime in Moscow. It is as a result of a failed burglary that he falls into the hands of a cruel crime lord that imprisons him as a punishment for trying to steal from him. From here he graduates to the criminal organisation Scorpia (Alex Rider’s nemesis) where he receives his training. At each stage of his story Gregorovich learns what he can from each of the people he encounters in order to help him achieve him survive. As Gregorovich says, he is given a destiny which he is unable to avoid.
Russian Roulette is a great read for fans have Alex Rider but it is a story for older readers as it is a grittier read.