The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 17

Petra goes through a dossier containing information on Marc Serra, ranging from his family’s background to his employee records. Just like Stephanie, Serra was academically successful in school. Furthermore, Petra (Stephanie’s pseudonym) says that they are alike because they can both adapt to any situation by being deceitful (Burnell, 143). Serra was linked to Reza Mohammed and Mustafa Sela, terrorists responsible for the plane crash, through his French-Arab Scholarship Society, which was responsible for funding their education and stay at Imperial College. Petra contacts Serra under the pseudonym of Fräulein Libensky, while Serra uses the pseudonym of Julius (Burnell, 149). They secretly communicate through a website and set up a meeting in Paris. Petra reaches out to Bradfield to forge her a new passport under which she can travel. There, Stephanie learns that Serra wants to hire her to kill one of his client’s competitors, Leon Giler, in New York.


When Petra meets with Serra, the author portrays her apparently-murderous instincts: “He’s heard about you, about what you did to Marin” (Burnell, 150). Serra’s client had learnt how she murdered Marin in cold blood and wants to hire her as an assassin. This shows the reader that Petra has earned a reputation for being rather savage. This is also emphasized when she meets with Bradfield and telling her that she looks different. Although she expects that he will compliment her for regaining her weight and beauty back, he says: “From where I’m sitting, you look empty” (Burnell, 149). This emphasizes how cold-hearted she has become. Furthermore, Petra compares herself with other women in television shows and comes to the conclusion that she is not normal. Therefore, when she agrees to have coffee with her neighbor, the narrator portrays her efforts of establishing an emotional connection with him as she tries to be ‘normal’.

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