(Walker Books €??)
BACK in the days, I contracted rheumatic fever, and spent some weeks in the boarding school infirmary, far from human contact.
I was infectious, so all the books I read had to be burned after they touched my nasty hands. In a feverish, hallucinatory state, I discovered Victorian penny dreadfuls.
These usually had evil Oriental or Central European villains with moustaches and devilish cunning.
There tended to be a slightly iffy sexiness about them, with daring young heroes being stripped off and tortured, wrestling bad guys, and having awfully strong relationships with male mentors.
And the villains were great - ahh, Fu Manchu, with his drooping moustache, and his beautiful daughter who left a lingering scent of mimosa in her wake.
Alas, all this is gone - but wait, no! Young Alex Rider to the rescue.
Alex no sooner splashes down in a space capsule in Snakehead when the Australian secret service recruits the 14-year-old, and within a breath he's in a wrestling ring in Thailand, wearing only silk shorts and showing off his karate skills, greasy with sweat.
The villain, Major Winston Yu, with his unhealthy love of England and his mum who put him through Harrow by working as an assassin, has the dastardly plan of killing off a bunch of wealthy do-gooders including a pop star and a billionaire property developer who plan to 'Make Poverty History'.
All 14-year-olds, of whatever age, will enjoy this.