The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder

Author’s Biography

Although Mark Burnell was born in Northumberland, England, he was raised in Brazil. Later, he returned to Britain where he tried several careers before settling on what he always wanted — to be a writer. He now writes full-time as a screenwriter and novelist. Burnell rose to fame in 1999 when he published The Rhythm Section, which became the first novel in the Stephanie Patrick series. Subsequently, The Rhythm Section was followed by three books, including Chameleon (2001), Gemini (2003) and The Third Woman (2005). Burnell also wrote two other novels, Freak (1994) and Glittering Savages (1995), before The Rhythm Section was released. The Rhythm Section became so popular that a motion picture based on the book’s protagonist, Stephanie Patrick, will be produced (Flemming, 2017). The motion picture will star Jude Law as Proctor and Blake Lively as Patrick (Donnelly, 2017). Mark Burnell is married and lives with his family in London. 


The Rhythm Section is written to address the war against terrorism. At the time of its release, the author not only wished to invoke a unified front against acts of terror, but also to portray the terrorist’s perspective that attempts to address the question of why they threaten global peace. Burnell portrays the formation of secret covert organizations that are dedicated to stopping terrorism by describing the Magenta House organization, which subsequently trains Stephanie Patrick, the protagonist, to be a ruthless operative that goes undercover to stop a global terrorist network.

Furthermore, the book seeks to address the reasons that cause people to be transformed into radicalized terrorists. Although many readers may assume that terrorism only arises from religious differences, the author narrates how extrajudicial murders of civilians in the Middle East consequently results in the formation of various terrorist groups that seek revenge (Bergen, 2016). For instance, Mustafa Sela, the character responsible for the bombing of a commercial aircraft, describes how he becomes a terrorist after three of his family members were killed by Israeli forces. Burnell, however, affirms that innocent people should not suffer as the victims of heinous terror attacks simply because the terrorists want to pursue vengeance (Harris, 2000). Throughout the book, he shows that the ideology of “a life for a life” only results in ultimate destruction, something that is seen through the evolution of both Stephanie and Sela, and how they ultimately become inhuman through their quests for revenge.

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