Codename Villanelle

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Codename Villanelle
Codename Villanelle book cover.jpg
2018 Hardcover edition
AuthorLuke Jennings
GenreFiction, thriller, suspense
PublisherMulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company
Publication date
3 April 2018
Media typeHardcover, Kindle, audiobook

Codename Villanelle is a 2018 fictional thriller novel by British author Luke Jennings. A compilation of four serial e-book novellas published in 2014–2016, Codename Villanelle is the basis of BBC America's television series Killing Eve which debuted in April 2018.


The book's title character Villanelle is a Russian orphan who, after murdering the killers of her gangster father, is rescued from prison and trained as a hitwoman by a shadowy group called The Twelve.[1]

Codename Villanelle has been summarized as pitting "heartless female assassin" Villanelle against "dowdy but dogged MI5 agent" Eve Polastri, the two women "battling it out at a distance" as Polastri seeks clues at a series of killing sites.[2]

Novella series[edit]

The Codename Villanelle novel is a compilation of four serial Kindle edition novellas:

"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's handler Konstantin
Codename Villanelle Chapter 1

  1. Codename Villanelle (published February 4, 2014; 36 pages). Star linguistics student Oxana Vorontsova's multiple brutal murders attract the notice of a secret global power elite, which recruits her as an assassin with codename Villanelle and rewards her with a luxurious lifestyle.[3]
  2. Villanelle: Hollowpoint (published August 3, 2014; 56 pages). Villanelle's pattern of assassinations draws the attention of a highly intelligent MI5 agent, Eve Polastri, who pursues Villanelle relentlessly.[4]
  3. Villanelle: Shanghai (published February 3, 2015; 49 pages). The "beautiful and sexually predatory... psychopath" Villanelle's next assignment takes her to Shanghai, where, regardless of personal cost to herself, Polastri fiercely pursues the assassin.[5]
  4. Odessa (published June 14, 2016; 48 pages). As Villanelle prepares to break into a fortified mansion in Odessa, Ukraine, where her mentor is held hostage, a breakthrough leads agent Polastri in determined pursuit.[6]

Critical response[edit]

In The Times, John Dugdale likened Villanelle's character to Nikita in Luc Besson's 1990 film Nikita—a former teenage killer transformed into a trained assassin.[7] Dugdale further likened author Luke Jennings to James Bond author Ian Fleming: "at once tongue-in-cheek and serious, paying obsessive attention to the details of both Villanelle’s chichi lifestyle and her lethal assignments."[7] Though calling "Jennings' version of 007"—Villanelle—"great fun", Dugdale wrote that the "imperfectly integrated" novella series was repetitious and lacked a "proper denouement".[7] In accord, Geoffrey Wansell wrote in the Daily Mail that the book had "shades" of the 1990 film Nikita and has "an extra sheen of glamour" that makes Villanelle more James Bond than "a mere killer".[1]

Jeff Noon wrote in The Spectator that the book "reads a little like Terry Hayes’s I Am Pilgrim in miniature".[2] Noon added that Jennings focused more on "hunting and killing" than on character building and that the book, though having final pages that are thrilling, ends without final resolution.[2] Similarly, trade magazine Publishers Weekly praised the book as an "exceptional spy thriller" with "superior prose" and "cracker jack plot", noting its "wide-open ending points to more to come in the struggle between these two resourceful antagonists".[8]

Killing Eve television adaptation[edit]

Based on Codename Villanelle, the television series Killing Eve was created by British actor–writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge and produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd for BBC America.[9] In addition to writing for the television series, Waller-Bridge was chosen as executive producer with Sally Woodward Gentle and Lee Morris.[9] The television series, casting Sandra Oh as Polastri and Jodie Comer as Villanelle, was well received, being renewed for a second season before its first-season debut on April 8, 2018 and having a 100% rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes as of May 8, 2018.[10]


A second book, Villanelle: No Tomorrow, is scheduled for publication in 2019.[11]

Literary rights[edit]

Publishing industry magazine The Bookseller reported in April 2017 that John Murray bought the novel just before the London Book Fair, subsequently selling North American rights to Josh Kendall at Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, during the fair.[9] World English rights were acquired from Patrick Walsh at PEW Literary Agency.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wansell, Geoffrey (August 31, 2017). "Thrillers". Daily Mail. Archived from the original on June 8, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Noon, Jeff (October 14, 2017). "The best recent crime fiction reviewed". The Spectator. Archived from the original on December 27, 2017.
  3. ^ "Codename Villanelle (Villanelle #1)". Goodreads. Archived from the original on April 20, 2018.
  4. ^ "Villanelle: Hollowpoint (Villanelle #2)". Goodreads. Archived from the original on July 9, 2017.
  5. ^ "Villanelle: Shanghai (Villanelle #3)". Goodreads. Archived from the original on July 6, 2017.
  6. ^ "Odessa (Villanelle #4)". Goodreads. Archived from the original on July 9, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Dugdale, John (September 17, 2017). "Book review: Suburra by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo; Yesterday by Felicia Yap; Ravenhill by John Steele; Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings". The Times. Archived from the original on June 9, 2018.
  8. ^ "Codename Villanelle". Publishers Weekly. April 1, 2018. Archived from the original on June 8, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Cowdrey, Katherine (April 6, 2017). "John Murray snaps up spy thriller first published as Kindle Single". The Bookseller. Archived from the original on April 7, 2017.
  10. ^ Wittmer, Carrie (May 8, 2018). "Killing Eve is a smart and seductive spy thriller that has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes". Business Insider. Archived from the original on May 8, 2018.
  11. ^ Tolentino, Jia (May 27, 2018). "The Pleasurable Patterns of the Killing Eve Season Finale". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on May 29, 2018.

External links[edit]