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8 July 2002
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
|“||Sharks. Assassins. Nuclear Bombs. Alex Rider is in deep water||”|
—Skelton Key tagline
The book was released in the United Kingdom on July 8, 2002 and in the United States on April 28, 2009.
On a coveted holiday destination just off the coast of Cuba, a mad general has intentions to undo history—and only Alex can stop him.
The book starts off with two agents of the Salesman, along with their pilot, flying to Skeleton Key (Cayo Esqueleto) island to sell General Alexei Sarov a box of highly destructive uranium. Upon discovering about their attempt to blackmail him, he changes the position of the runway causing them to crash just before they could leave and be eaten by crocodiles. Meanwhile, Alex stumbles upon John Crawley after netball practice and learns of a peculiar break-in at the All England Tennis Club. He accepts after much persuasion, eventually capturing the culprit—a member of the Big Circle triad who tried to extort money through the championship. He then stays over with Sabina Pleasure in Cornwall, where he thwarts another attempt on his life after he decides to ride the Cribber, an abnormally huge wave.
Five days later, he is taken to the Royal & General Bank where he learns from Alan Blunt and Mrs Jones that, due to his intervening with the Big Circle's affairs, every member of the triad will be trying to kill him. The only way he can wait for it to blow over is to join the CIA in an undercover operation they are going to carry out on Skeleton Key, supposedly with him just watching from the sidelines. This is to ensure that the CIA can visit the island without alerting the authorities to the presence of spies.
Upon his arrival in Miami, he is driven to Centurion International Advertising (in fact a front for one of the CIA's Covert Action Division branches), where he is briefed by the deputy director, Joe Byrne, about their plans to investigate General Sarov, the owner of the Casa de Oro (Spanish for "golden house"). He is then, rather reluctantly, picked up by two hired spies, Tom Turner and Belinda Troy, allowing for them to pass as an American family, the Gardiners. They head over to have breakfast at a restaurant the next morning, testing Alex on his knowledge of his false life. He is also
- The tagline, "Alex Rider is in deep water -- again" is a reference to a chapter title in Stormbreaker, "Deep Water", where Alex had to survive in a tank with the Portuguese Man-o'-war.
- Skeleton Key (graphic novel)
- Skeleton Key - Walker Books
- Skeleton Key Mission - Alex Rider official website
|Skeleton Key Characters|
|Alex Rider • Alan Blunt • Tulip Jones • Jack Starbright • Alexei Sarov • Sabina Pleasure|
|Other Key Characters|
|Joe Byrne • Smithers • Belinda Troy • Tom Turner • Conrad • John Crawley • Boris Kiriyenko|