The Rhythm Section
By: Mark Burnell
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase
Stephanie Patrick’s life is destroyed by the crash of flight NEO027. Her family was on board and there were no survivors. Devastated, she drops out of college and her life spins out of control as she enters a world of drugs and prostitution—until a journalist discovers that the crash wasn’t an accident. There was a bomb planted on the plane. Filled with rage, and with nothing left to loose, she focuses on one goal: revenge.
The opportunity to obtain it arrives quickly when Stephanie is approached and recruited by an extremely covert intelligence organization. She is young, smart, and beautiful—and has no family, making her the perfect candidate. The organization offers her a deal. She must undergo rigorous training; learn how to control her heart rate and breathing (“the rhythm section”); and learn how to efficiently use weapons. Then, she will assume a new identity and commit acts of terrorism on behalf of the organization. When she completes these assignments successfully—and proves her loyalty—she will be offered the opportunity to take out the terrorists who brought down flight NEO027. She has nothing to lose.
As “Petra,” a mercenary terrorist based out of Germany, and as “Marina,” an international businesswoman based in London, she enters the brutal world of international espionage, and adapts quickly. She is able to numb her feelings and act on instinct alone. But as the stakes get higher, Stephanie begins to question what her value really is. Is the organization telling her the truth–do they know who caused flight NEO027 to explode? Or are they using her for some other agenda? More important: Is avenging her family worth the price she is paying? And if it isn’t—will the organization that created her let her go?
The book caught my attention when I saw the trailer for the movie adaptation starring Blake Lively. It looked interesting, and I like this genre, something fast to read in the summer time between huge tomes (which comprises 90% of my to-read queue at this point). Plus, I needed something like this to read in the meantime as I’ve been meaning to carve some time to catch up on Daniel Silva’s books again.
Unfortunately I didn’t really enjoy reading this book and ended up skimming the latter half of the book. The premise is familiar: main character is recruited to a shadow organisation to fight against enemies behind the scenes in the geopolitical sphere. Main character usually has a tragedy of a past that his or her handlers can use to their advantage. And we spend a good quarter of this novel being introduced to how rough Stephanie had before she was trained as an assassin, the anger that developed that propelled her to be good at what she did and what she trained for.
What threw me off this book and stopped me from enjoying it for what it was–because the premise was pretty plausible and I can see why it was optioned into a movie–was the writing. The switch between third-person narrative to Stephanie’s point of view…While it provided a glimpse into what Stephanie was thinking and experiencing, the writing felt stilted. I never fully immersed myself to the story because he just read so…awkwardly.
I’ll still watch the adaptation though, maybe the story will translate better there.