The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 24
Summary

When Petra returns to London, she makes contact with Alexander who informs her that the Sons of Sabah are the terrorists that Khalil has chosen to hijack a commercial aircraft. When he asks her whether she knows where she will be meeting with Khalil during the attack, she lies — afraid that Alexander will jeopardize her plan of killing Khalil in Malta. Later, Serra reaches out to her and they arrange a meeting in Paris. Once there, she learns about Khalil: his recruitment of jihadists; the significance of the location for his meeting with Petra in Malta, which he considered to be a religious city; his financiers; and his plans for hijacking the plane. Serra gives her the detonator to a bomb that will be detonated on the plane after it is hijacked and informs her that Khalil wants her to trigger the bomb just as the plane takes off. Although she fears that Khalil expects her to be a suicide bomber, Serra assures her that she will be among the few hostages that will be released in Malta before the bomb goes off.   

Analysis

Petra’s covert assignment with Serra leaves her with conflicted feelings, especially towards Frank; it becomes harder for her to spend her time with both Frank and Serra as it involves lying to them. This is emphasized when she says “[n]ever being able to say what was on her mind to the one person she wanted to tell became a pressure” (Burnell, 217). The irony, that Petra is chosen to be the one to detonate the bomb, is not lost on the reader — or Petra herself — when her empathy is portrayed by the statement “I think of the people who are due to fly on the aircraft that Khalil intends to hijack. They are the same people who were on flight NE027. They are my family, they could even be me”. The readers are left in suspense, wondering whether Petra will go through with Khalil’s plan so that she can finally meet him — and then kill him. Will her pursuit for revenge be traded off for the innocent hostages on the hijacked aircraft?

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