Review: Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings

Opening sentence: “The Palazzo Falconieri stands on a promontory on one of the smaller Italian lakes.”

Like a lot of other people recently, I became a bit addicted to watching Killing Eve. Two series of excellent TV that tell the tale of covert MI5 operative Eve Polastri and the enigmatic female assassin she is hunting, Villanelle. The series is written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who also wrote and starred in the amazing Fleabag) and the story is – in essence – based on this very book by Luke Jennings. Codename Villanelle was originally written as four e-books and then compiled as one story in 2018. I wanted to read it as although the TV show is great, it tells us little of Villanelle’s origins and I wondered if the book might tell me more. Imagine my delight when – yes – it does exactly that. We learn how Villanelle becomes an assassin and follow her as she lives this unconventional existence, evading capture while Eve is getting closer on her trail.

I know you should always read the book first, but I didn’t (in my defence, I didn’t know it was based on a book when I originally started watching it!) so had visuals of the characters in my mind before I even started reading. This was fine, as the core characters are the same in both, but then I started to play the, ‘that’s been changed, oh that character didn’t do that on the show’ game and found I was cross referencing more than letting the story of the book play out in its own right. It’s also just the first in a series (the sequel is No Tomorrow) so it didn’t have a satisfying conclusion and the thing I was drawn to most – the magnetic relationship between Eve and Villanelle is barely covered in this book.

So – for me – Codename Villanelle was great for fleshing out arguably the most interesting character in story and don’t get me wrong, it was an entertaining read that I zipped through, but just this once, I’m going to have to say I preferred the TV version… Don’t hate me.

/ Published by John Murray 2018

/ 217 pages

/ Rating: 3/5


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