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If it wasn't for Alex Rider, Washington DC wouldn't even exist!
~ Joe Byrne expresses his pride in Alex Rider's success


Joe Byrne is a major protagonist in the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. Joe Byrne is the equivalent of Alan Blunt's office in London. Strangely, Blunt warns Alex of Joe Byrne, as does Derek Smithers, saying that the CIA are a bit shady, but, strangely enough, Joe Byrne turns out to be much more likeable and humane than Blunt is.

He has aided Alex Rider three times in the series.


Background

Almost nothing is known of Joe Byrne's origins, except that he may have been involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis, as he mentions Cuba having a rocky relationship with the United States of America.


Biography

Skeleton Key

Joe Byrne makes his first appearance in this novel. He has only a brief one, but it is memorable. He first appears in the Miami CIA office, and meets Alex Rider there. He is welcoming to him, acknowledging several times Alex must be tired and he will make this a brief address. Joe is uncomfortable about using a young boy as an agent, exposing a softer side which MI6 kept hidden. Joe is also the only CIA agent to understand Alex's sense of humour. Joe talks things over with Alex and says that he will be meeting his new partners and new pretend parents soon. Turner and Troy, the two special agents, arrive and they immediately dislike Alex, but because it's Joe's orders, they play along with it. Joe is shown to be extremely tired-looking, but very fit. He is also shown to be very law-abiding, as he says he had to "pull strings" to get three fake passports, and, "When this is over, I want them back". Joe then seemingly alarms his agents by saying that if the Cuban government blow their cover, they'll probably kill them because Cuba has a different policy to the USA. But then Joe collects himself and says he's sure that won't happen, but Alex isn't so sure. After Tom Turner annoys Joe by saying he's meeting the Salesman (a master criminal) on his boat tomorrow, Joe arranges the meeting to go ahead as planned.

Joe later returns in the ending, upset about Turner and Troy's murder by General Alexei Sarov's underwater cavern booby trap but Joe congratulates Alex for saving the world nonetheless.


Ark Angel

Joe Byrne returns in the sixth Alex Rider, Ark Angel. He only appears at the end, when he is alarmed at Nikolei Drevin and his apparent escapee network. Joe does a clever move where he intercepts Alex at the Customs in the airport, saying his passport is malfunctioned, and then says Alex will be held overnight. This is of course a lie and Alex is taken to the Washington CIA headquarters. He meets Byrne in there and Byrne tells him the passport issue was all fake. He then says he really wanted to see Alex again, because he liked him last time, and then tells him that Nikolei Drevin is the most evil man in the world, a mass murderer, embezzler, and KGB agent. Alex isn't shocked because he's already met Herod Sayle, Dr. Grief, General Sarov, Sir Damian Cray and Julia Rothman - all of whom were immensely evil, ambitious psychopaths. So Alex isn't surprised about Drevin but he doesn't believe Drevin is going to run away. He tells Byrne he believes he's mistaken and, sure enough, Drevin isn't going to flee. Rather, he's going to destroy Washington by having his space station crash onto the city! So, when Alex is reunited with Byrne, he expresses displeasure at having Drevin killed, saying he wanted to talk to Drevin about the space station impact. So Joe Byrne does perhaps the most risky thing he ever achieved - he sends Alex himself into space to dismantle the bomb. In this highly dangerous operation (which of course is successful as the bomb blows up the hotel in space) Byrne approaches a treacherous professor linked with Drevin and tells him that if Alex doesn't return, he'll blow his brains out.


Scorpia Rising

Joe Byrne returns for the final time in Scorpia Rising, the ninth and final book in the series. He is worried because, along with MI6, he received a threat from SCORPIA saying the American secretary of state will be killed by Alex Rider (or rather Julius Grief, who is a clone of Alex) and Joe Byrne made a mistake of not informing his inferior agents that Alex was an important agent, the agents almost waterboard Alex before Joe comes and finds them trying to drown a kid, but not just any kid, Alex Rider. Joe is so angry with his men he almost sacks them. Then he brings Alex in for a relaxing cup of coffee. Joe profusely apologizes to Alex for the misguided waterboarding, even promising to demote the drowner. Joe explains the assassination attempt, and that the CIA are there in Cairo, Egypt to protect the American secretary of state. Joe briefs Alex and then kindly has a taxi drop him off at home.

Unlike the other agents, Joe does not sneer at Alex having a housekeeper, showing a nicer side to him altogether.

Joe returns in the climax when he finds the assassin - Julius Grief - dead on the lawn outside the Cairo college. Joe meets an Egyptian politician, Menzhour, who is an old friend of his, and they decide no one is to blame but the British government, but they decide not to go to war because too many odd things have been happening - such as a scorpion not native to Cairo being used to kill SCORPIA agent Erik Gunther. In the confusion, Menzhour sees Alex off to the final showdown with Abdul Aziz al-Razim, the SCORPIA boss, and he talks with Joe Byrne about how Alex is obviously traumatized by something, which is Jack's murder, but he doesn't know this.


Personality

Joe Byrne was a very good-natured and law-abiding man, as shown in his desire to protect Alex. He could be a bit rough with his own agents, but he was generally forgiving. Alex described him as "someone who was usually on his side." Joe was an elderly black man, with grizzled gray/white hair, who looked strong and healthy but had a permanently tired face, and moved slowly.

Joe was the complete opposite of Alan Blunt - Blunt was a cold individual and could never congratulate anyone, saying only "Very good" but Byrne profusely congratulated Alex, saying that Washington wouldn't even exist if it weren't for Alex. Byrne also expressed concern for Alex, something Alan Blunt only did towards book eight.

In fact, Joe Byrne was unlike other intelligence directors, including the spoiled pompous Ethan Brooke, because whereas Alan Blunt and Brooke both let Alex down several times and never came to rescue him, Byrne always responded right on cue, sometimes even before Alex had summoned them.

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