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Codename Villanelle - Book Review

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt www.femlitica.com jennifermuirhead.wordpress.com/
Published January 28th 2019
The hunter and the hunted
codename villanelle, Killing Eve, novel, spy novel, Luke Jennings, fiction, female assassin

"Men or women who are born, as you were, without a conscience or the ability to feel guilt ... without you, without predators—people who can think the unthinkable and act without fear or hesitation—the world stands still. You are an evolutionary necessity."

Villanelle is one of the world's most skilled assassins. Plucked from a Russian prison, where she would have served a life sentence for killing her father's murderers, she works for a shadowy organisation, whose motives she doesn't question. She kills whoever she is told to kill and in exchange, she leads a comfortable life in a flat in Paris. Meanwhile in England, former MI6 operative Eve Polastri is hired to head a task force with the sole purpose of tracking down and stopping Villanelle.

Codename Villanelle, by Luke Jennings, is an exciting spy thriller which was the basis for the television series Killing Eve, starring Sandra Oh (of Grey's Anatomy and Catfight) as Eve Polastri and Jodie Comer as Villanelle. The book is different from the TV series as far as some minor plot points go, which makes it possible to enjoy both the book and the show without either one really spoiling the other. The essence of the story, including the deadly cat and mouse game between Eve and Villanelle remains the same.

killing eve, Sandra Oh, assassing, Codename Villanelle
Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri in Killing Eve. Screen cap from iView.


The novel is a compilation of four novellas, first published as Kindle e-books between 2014 and 2016, which explains the way the book is divided into such long chapters. The plot has an Ian Fleming feel to it, with spies trying to uncover a secretive cabal conspiring to control the world. It also has similarities with Luc Besson's 1990 film Nikita.

Villanelle is an intriguing character, who I came to feel sympathy for despite her ruthlessness. She reminded me of Jeff Lindsay's Dexter, in that while she keeps saying that she doesn't care about anyone or anything she seems to protest too much. Eve is also not without flaws and makes occasionally disastrous mistakes as juggles her personal relationships with her secretive and demanding job. As in the TV series, the nail-biting suspense alternates with odd, funny moments arising from Eve's domestic life and Villanelle's dark sense of humour about her job.

My only real criticism of the novel is that it ends too abruptly, just as Eve has started to work out the extent of the corruption which has allowed the assassinations to happen. There is a sequel, entitled Villanelle: No Tomorrow to be published in 2019 that will hopefully have a more satisfying ending.

Killing Eve
is currently streaming in Australia on iView, and has been renewed for a second season.
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Came in late to the TV series. It certainly intrigued me. Looks like I shall have to do a catch up with the written word rather than iview.
by Alison Muirhead (score: 2|244) 18 days ago
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