Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings

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With Christmas approaching, my day job has had an increase in workload, and I have little time or energy to read books when I get home.  What’s a book blogger to do? *wails*  One book that I have managed to finish recently is Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings. 

Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings, Don't Bend the Spine, UK Book Blog

Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings

Publication Date: 29th June 2017
Publisher: John Murray Press
Genre: Thriller
Review copy from Netgalley
She is the perfect assassin.  A Russian orphan, saved from the death penalty for the brutal revenge she took on her gangster father’s killers.  Ruthlessly trained. Given a new life. New names, new faces – whichever fits.  Her paymasters call themselves The Twelve. But she knows nothing of them. Konstantin is the man who saved her, and the one she answers to. She is Villanelle. Without conscience. Without guilt. Without weakness.  Eve Polastri is the woman who hunts her. MI5, until one error of judgment costs her everything. Then stopping a ruthless assassin becomes more than her job. It becomes personal.



Just like 99% of Britain, I have become obsessed with the BBC TV show Killing Eve.  I gobbled up the TV show in a matter of days and I desperately wanted more.  When I found out that the TV show was based on a book, I was delighted, as it meant I could get more of my fix.   I spotted that the first book in the series, Codename Villanelle, was available to request on Netgalley, and I couldn’t resist putting in a (very) cheeky request.  I was over the moon to be approved, as I had been bracing myself for a declined request.  During a recent train journey, I started reading Codename Villanelle and I didn’t stop reading until I had finished.

The Palazzo Falconieri stands on a promontory on one of the smaller Italian lakes. It’s late June, and a faint breeze touches the pines and cypresses that cluster like sentinels around the rocky headland.

In a story that spans England, Europe, China and Russia, Codename Villanelle follows the life of one of the world’s top assassins who operates under the codename Villanelle.  Professionally trained to kill without hesitation,  Villanelle carries out her kills on instruction from her mysterious employers, The Twelve.   When Villanelle assassinates a political speaker in London, she comes to the attention of Eve Polastri, a bored MI5 agent who was tasked with his protection.   Assigned to a secret taskforce with the aim of capturing Villanelle, Eve finds herself in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.

If it wasn’t for the tv show, Codename Villanelle may have escaped my attention, as I hadn’t heard of the novellas before I watched the TV show.  I’m grateful to John Murray Press for giving me the opportunity to read Codename Villanelle, as it was a book I won’t be able to forget in a hurry.   Seriously, some of Villanelle’s scenes may have scarred me for life.  However, there were certain things that affected my enjoyment of the book.

Codename Villanelle was originally published as a collection of four e-novellas, with each novella focusing on one of Villanelle’s kills.  Due to its popularity, the four short stories have been brought together and published in one novel.   However, I found that each short story acts as a chapter in this book, meaning there was a lot of repetition, particularly in Villanelle’s perspective.  With each story being written in the present tense, I didn’t feel that we got to know the characters in depth like you would with a full-length novel.   For me, the repetition and the use of the present tense affected my reading experience, which in turn affected my overall rating of the book.

Speaking of Villanelle’s perspective, it understandably features a lot of violent scenes with her being a trained and professional killer and whatnot.  The action scenes were well executed (pun intended) and dare I say, entertaining to read.  The description of the weapons Villanelle uses, particularly the guns, were of little interest to me, and coupled with the repetition throughout, made me glaze over towards the end.   Whilst I appreciate the amount of research that must have gone into bringing Villanelle’s story to life, there’s only so many times I can read about a gun and what it can do.   

To be honest, I do prefer the TV show to the book.  In the TV show, we get to know the characters much better than we do in the book, which is surprising as its usually the other way round when it comes to book-to-screen adaptations.  There are some differences to note between the TV show and the book, with one of them being the small snippets we see of Villanelle’s mysterious employers, The Twelve, which helps to explain some of the motivation behind her assignments. 

Someone at John Murray Press must like me as they have granted my exceptionally cheeky request for a copy of Codename Villanelle: No Tomorrow on Netgalley, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.  I’m hoping the second book will be more substantial in content, and we will get to know Villanelle and Eve better.   I suppose there’s only one way to find out…

Rating:  3* | Recommend? Yes

11th November 2018
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1 Comment

  • Reply Charlotte

    I did not know this was a book. I loved the TV series. Going to have to hunt this out.

    19th November 2018 at 11:17 am
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