Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings – A Book Review

You may remember that my wife and I very much enjoyed Killing Eve, which aired on BBC America.  As is my habit, I had to go check out the source material, which turned out to be a novel entitled Codename Villanelle.

Written by Luke Jennings, this fast-paced, brisk thriller served as the basis for the television show.  However, as you read the book, you’ll notice the show greatly enriched virtually every character.

Villanelle is still present–obviously.  So is Eve.  Konstantin and Niko, too.  Several other characters were adapted into new characters for the show, or outright jettisoned.

The show also used the same general plot.  Villanelle is an international assassin who comes from less than nothing.  Konstantin is her handler.  Eve is a UK agent obsessed with apprehending Villanelle.  Niko is still her husband.  However, Jennings keeps them fairly bare-bones.  Yes, he introduces some of their little idiosyncrasies.  Eve is still something of a social train-wreck.  Villanelle is still a sociopath.  Niko is still incredibly patient and helpful.  But, we seem to just skim the surface of these interesting attributes.  None of them have the charm nor the depth of their televised counterparts.

The novel is very plot driven.  Jennings is incredibly specific with locations, weaponry, procedures, and technology.  There is ample action that moves at a whiplash pace, but, again, the characters are somewhat flat.

I have to wonder if I’m being unfair to the book.  Killing Eve is clearly such a special show, is it unfair to judge the source material too harshly in this case?  Could Killing Eve’s charming, odd, wonderful characters have existed without Jennings groundwork?

Honestly, I don’t think I’m being unfair.  The book was an entertaining read, but it didn’t strike me as monumental.  Without the show, I don’t think it would have made much of an impression on me.  Keep in mind, though, I don’t read much suspense or espionage spy stories.

Frankly, there were times when I thought the book was a little sexually gratuitous.  Jennings makes a point to depict Villanelle as a sexual predator.  He absolutely objectifies her and her prey.  It largely felt unnecessary to me, because it is–again–dealt with at a very shallow level that makes it seem like it’s there only to shock the reader.

If you like quick reads full of detail, action, violence, and suspense, this is the book for you.

Image result for codename villanelle book cover

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

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Why You Should Be Watching BBC America’s Killing Eve

Tonight, Killing Eve’s season finale airs.  If you’re not watching this show, you really should.  I heard about it on a few different podcasts, and so my wife and I checked it out and it immediately won us over.  Why?

Good question.

Let me see if I can answer it.

Sandra Oh plays Eve Polastri, and American born citizen who came to Britain and never left.  She works for MI5, which is England’s equivalent of the FBI.  A global assassin has come to her attention, and, to be honest — she’s a fan.

Jodie Comer plays Villanelle, the assassin.  She is young, brilliant, beautiful, athletic, and a total psychopath.  When she discovers Eve is hot on her trail, she becomes infatuated.

Do you recognize the beginnings of a very unhealthy relationship?

This is a quirky show.  At times it is incredibly violent because Villanelle loves what she does for a living.  At other moments it is quite dramatic as Eve’s relationship with her husband suffers due to her professional, and personal, secrecy.  It then becomes a flat-out thriller when Eve and Villanelle come face to face.  However, amidst everything, it is always darkly humorous.  This show has a weird, pervasive sense of humor that is always lurking just below the surface.

This is probably due to the series creator: Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  She also created and starred in Fleabag, an equally idiosyncratic show that I rave about at every opportunity.  She has a strangely captivating sense of humor, and it shines in this series she based on a novel.

Everyone gives a top-notch performance in Killing Eve.  The writing is crisp.  The locations are both beautiful and mundane.  Even the clothes are oddly interesting.

But beneath it all, the show has an electricity to it that I don’t detect in many other programs.  It just feels … different.  It strikes me as fresh, original, and a little dangerous.

With its eighth and final episode premiering tonight, it doesn’t require much of a commitment on your part.  They move fast and believe me when I say you’ll be entertained the entire time.  Be prepared, though, when Villanelle is on the job, she pulls no punches.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer in Killing Eve (2018)

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)