The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 19

Petra travels to New York where she meets another Magenta House agent, Andrew Wilson, sent by Alexander to help her with the assassination mission. When the two go out to eat in a restaurant, Petra finds out that Wilson is married with children. After she asks him how he balances working for Magenta House and having a family, he says that he lies to them — telling his family that he is only an accountant. He is unremorseful for lying to them, convinced that lying is what he has to do (Burnell, 166). While at the restaurant, Wilson informs her that their plan to assassinate Giler is already in motion. The following afternoon, when Giler sends for a call girl, Petra goes to his apartment in place of his usual escort with the intent of using this opportunity to assassinate Giler. However, she is unable to go through with it — and, as a result, Wilson plants a bomb in Giler’s car that eventually kills him, along with his three children. When Petra returns to London, she storms into Alexander’s office angrily telling him that she wants to quit because her conscience was stopping her from assassinating her targets. However, she learns of Giler’s children deaths and automatically takes the blame for them. Had she killed Giler, as instructed, his children would not have become collateral damage. Although she wants to quit, Alexander warns her that there will be repercussions to her actions, insinuating that he could easily have her brother, Christopher, and his family murdered.


This chapter portrays Petra as compassionate, which is contrary to the previous chapters where she is described as a cold-hearted killer. We see this compassion in numerous ways — such as when she starts to feel sentimental about Frank, her neighbor. She nearly breaks protocol in her mission when she attempts to call him to apologize for her earlier outburst. Furthermore, Petra believes that the only way to have a real family of her own is to stop working for Magenta House. When Alexander tells her “[y]ou can’t just resign because you don’t want to play any more”, he emphasizes that Petra is bound to the organization and can never leave (Burnell, 172). To assert his control over her, Alexander even threatens to kill Christopher and his family if she attempted to leave. This threat reiterates her fear that — in the pursuit of justice and vengeance, — she has done more harm than good.

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