This is the book that Killing Eve is based on. And no, I have not yet watched Killing Eve – although I suppose I should, considering a) both Eve and Villanelle’s actresses have won Emmys for their work and b) Killing Eve is written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also wrote and stars in Fleabag, who c) won the Best Actress in a Comedy Emmy out from under the great Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for the latter’s final season of Veep.
There’s a lot of layers there. But the important thing to remember is that I have not yet watched Killing Eve because I am too busy keeping up with Riverdale and Dynasty and I HAVE NO REGRETS, because those shows are MAGIC
Villanelle is a codename for Oxana Vorontsova, an assassin of Russian descent. She went through a training somewhere in between that of Natasha Romanoff/The Black Widow and Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans, and is the right kind of sociopath to truly enjoy being a hired assassin. At this time of the narrative, Villanelle lives in Paris and receives her jobs via Konstantin, her handler.
One job she takes brings her to London – she is successful in killing this Russian named Kedrin, who was a guest speaker at, let’s say, a university. But Eve – an MI-5 agent who was tasked with handling security for the Kedrin event – thought there would be a true threat a little too late and managed to give Villanelle her opportunity.
The book doesn’t really have a linear plot – it felt like we focused on Villanelle and her backstory and origin, and how those circumstances formed her into the superior assassin she is now. We also see Eve with her husband, Niko – bridge night, discussing their attempts to have a baby to expand their family, and as Eve’s obsession with finding Villanelle intrudes into their life, their arguments.
After Eve is placed on indeterminate leave following Kedrin’s assassination, she (and her MI-5 partner, Simon) is tapped to join the super-secret Russia bureau of MI-6, and given the task of locating Villanelle and bringing her to justice.
Eve learns that there’s a potential target for Villanelle in Shanghai, so off to China they go. Spoiler alert!: Villanelle is able to take care of her target and evade Eve once more, but: Simon is killed.
Simon has a romantic interlude with Janie, who was actually hired by Konstantin and Villanelle to seduce Simon, steal his phone, and then kill him. Unfortunately for Simon, Janie succeeds and Simon dies. Therefore, “Bury Me,” off of Guster’s second album Goldfly, is this book’s entry in the Guster Reading Challenge, “Read a book in which a character dies”.
I don’t believe that Eve and Villanelle ever interact in this book. (I may be wrong, but it seems like they don’t.) Which is probably why the book is not called Killing Eve. At the end of this book, Villanelle has met up with a former co-assassin-student, Lara, and the two of them are working together to try and rescue Konstantin from … I don’t know, let’s say Siberia, that sounds like something Russia’d do. They get Konstantin out, but then they kill him – which, according to Lara, was the plan: if Villanelle had not attempted to kill Konstantin, Lara’s plan was to kill Villanelle in addition to Konstantin.
So Eve is back at MI-6, tracking Villanelle, and Villanelle is back in Paris, waiting for her next job. (Either she found a new handler or she’s made it known that she’s for hire on her own, I can’t remember – but whatever.)
I was not left with much of an impression of the book. It was short – maybe only six chapters? It felt more like a long novella than a novel, but I’m probably being picky about it. Having said that, the only reason it should be longer is if there was to be a resolution between Eve and Villanelle – and as there wasn’t, then the length is fine. There wasn’t too much lag in parts – at worst, there may have been parts that I wasn’t interested in learning about (like Villanelle’s terrible childhood), but it’s not like the author rambled about nothing for entire chapters on end. And even the childhood stuff – my disinterest stems from the things I like to read – Villanelle’s childhood absolutely informs her present adulthood and assassin-hood, so it’s not extraneous information.
I dunno – I guess I wish the book had the same sort of buzz as the TV show? I’ll let you know after I watch the TV show.
Grade for Codename Villanelle: 1.5 stars