The Rhythm Section by Mark Burnell | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Rhythm Section

Rhythm Section

4.5 2
by Mark Burnell, Jay Winik

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Her life was destroyed when the plane carrying her family crashed. Now Stephanie will do anything for revenge....Recruited by a covert intelligence organization, she makes a deal. Complete their lethal assignments and they'll let her kill the murderers who destroyed her family. Young, smart, and beautiful, she becomes an assassin with two covers—"Petra," a


Her life was destroyed when the plane carrying her family crashed. Now Stephanie will do anything for revenge....Recruited by a covert intelligence organization, she makes a deal. Complete their lethal assignments and they'll let her kill the murderers who destroyed her family. Young, smart, and beautiful, she becomes an assassin with two covers—"Petra," a terrorist-for-hire in Germany, and "Marina," an international businesswoman in London.

Immersed in the brutal, high-stakes world of international terrorism, Stephanie begins to ask some deadly questions. Is the organization telling her the truth, or are they using her for a darker reason? Is avenging her family worth losing her soul? And will the organization that created her let her go—or is she already the next target? She's got one chance to escape—if she lives long enough to take it.

"Drums and bass are the rhythm section. Your heart is the drums, your breathing is the bass. You get those two sorted, then you're sorted. You can't panic when your breathing's under control and you've got your pulse in check. It's not physically possible."

Editorial Reviews

Orlando Sentinel
Excellent....Chillingly convincing....Burnell really knows how to hold attention.
From the Publisher
‘Mark Burnell has created a rounded literary character and a memorable heroine. But who is she really? A fine debut.’ The Economist

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.26(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

She's a chemical blonde. The carder was a stout skinhead in a Reebok track-suit who carried a canvas satchel stuffed with prostitutes' advertising cards.Along Baker Street, he moved from phone-box to phone-box, sticking the cards to the glass with Blu-Tack.Keith Proctor watched him from a distance before approaching him.He showed him the scrap of card he'd been given by one of her friends and asked the man if he knew who she was.It cost fifty pounds to persuade the carder to talk.Yes, he knew who she was.No, she wasn't one of his.He'd heard a rumour she was working in Soho.

On the fragment of dirty yellow card there was a photograph of a woman offering her breasts, plumping them between her hands.The bottom half of the card--the half with the phone number--was missing.

An hour later, Proctor hurried along Shaftesbury Avenue.The falling drizzle was so fine it hung in the air like mist but its wetness penetrated everything.Those who were heading across Cambridge Circus towards the Palace Theatre or the evening's performance of Les Miserables looked suitably miserable, shoulders curved and heads bowed against the damp chill.The traffic on the Charing Cross Road was solid.Red lights shivered in puddles.

There was a cluster of four old-fashioned phone-boxes on Cambridge Circus. Proctor waited for five minutes for one of them to become free.As the heavy door swung behind him, muting the sound outside, he realized someone had been smoking in the phone-box.The smell of stale cigarettes was unpleasant but Proctor found himself grateful for it since it mostly masked the underlying stench of urine.

Three sides of the phone-box were covered byprostitutes' advertising cards. Proctor let his eyes roam over the selection.Some were photos,in colour or black and white, others were drawings.Some contained text, usually printed although, in a few cases, they had been scrawled by hand.They offered straight sex, oral sex, anal sex.They were redheads, blondes and brunettes.They were older women and they were teenagers.To the top of the phone-box, they were stacked like goods on a supermarket shelf.Black, Asian, Oriental, Scandinavian, Proctor saw specific nationalities singled out; 'busty Dutch girl--only 21' 'Brazilian transsexual--new in town', 'Aussie babe for fun and games', 'German nymphomaniac, 19--nothing refused'.One card proclaimed: 'Mature woman and--proud of it! Forty-four's not just my chest size it's my age!

Proctor took the torn yellow card out of his pocket and scanned those in the phone-box.He made a match high to his left.The one on the wall was complete, the phone number running along the bottom hall.He forced a twenty-pence piece into the slot and dialed.

A woman answered, her voice more weary than seductive.

'I ... I'm in a phone-box" Proctor stammered.'On ... on Cambridge Circus.'

'We're in Brewer Street.Do you know it?'


'The girl we've got on today is a real stunner.She's called Lisa and she's a blonde with a gorgeous figure and lovely long legs.She's a genuine eighteen-year-old and her measurements are. . .'

Proctor, felt deadened by the pitch.

'It's thirty pounds for a massage with hand-relief and her prices go up to eighty pounds for the full personal service.What was it you were looking for, darling?'

He had no answer at the ready.'I ... I'm not sure. . .'

'Well, why don't you discuss it with the young lady in person?'


'You can decide when you get here.When were you thinking of coming round?'

'I don't know.When would be. . .?'

'She's free now.' Like a door-to-door salesman, she gave Proctor no time to think.'It'll only take you five minutes to get here.Do you want the address?'

There were Christmas decorations draped across the roads and hanging from street lamps.They filled the windows of pubs and restaurants.Their crass brightness matched the gaudy lights of the sex shops.Proctor passed a young homeless couple, who were huddling in a shallow doorway, trying to keep dry, if not warm.They were sharing a can of Special Brew.

The address was opposite the Raymond Revuebar, between an Asian mini-market and a store peddling pornographic videos.The woman answered the intercom.'Top of the stairs.'

The hall was cramped and poorly lit.Broken bicycles and discarded furniture had been stored beneath the fragile staircase.Proctor felt a tightness in his stomach as he started to climb the stairs.On each landing there were either two or three front doors.None of them matched.Most were dilapidated, their hinges barely clinging to their rotting frames, rendering their locks redundant.On the third floor, though, he passed a new door.It was painted black and it was clear that a whole section of wall had been removed and rebuilt to accommo-date it.It had three, gleaming, heavy-duty steel locks.

The door at the top of the staircase was held open by an obese woman in her fifties with tinted glasses. She wore Nike trainers, a pair of stretched grey leggings and a violet jersey, sleeves rolled up to the elbows.The flat was a converted attic.In a small sitting room, a large television dominated.On a broken beige sofa there was an open pizza carton; half the pizza was still in it.The woman steered Proctor into the room at the end.

'You want something to drink, darling?'


'All right, then.You wait here.She'll be with you in a minute.' She closed the door and Proctor was alone.There was a king-sized mattress on a low wooden frame.The bed-cover was dark green.On the mantelpiece, on the table in the far corner and on the two boxes that passed for bedside tables, there were old bottles of wine with candles protruding from their necks.On top of a chest of drawers there was a blue glass bowl with several dozen condoms in it.The room was hot and reeked of baby oil and cigarettes.Proctor walked over to the window, the naked floorboards creaking beneath his feet.Pulsing lights from the street tinted curtains so flimsy that he could almost see through them.He parted them and looked down upon the congested road below.

'Looking for someone?'

Meet the Author

The author was born in Northumberland and grew up in Brazil. On returning to Britain, he tried various sensible careers, but has always wanted to write. This is his first novel. He is at work on his second.

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