Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle (Villanelle Book 1)

Luke Jennings

Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle (Villanelle Book 1)
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Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle (Villanelle Book 1)

Luke Jennings

This novel is the basis for Killing Eve, a major BBC TV series, starring Sandra Oh, directed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

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. Until stopping a ruthless assassin becomes more than her job. It becomes personal.


Call your spouse, tell them you have an important work meeting. Slip on a pair of green contact lenses, slide on a black wig, and get in an unassuming taxi. Find the bar you need – the note is written, in code, in a crumpled note in your hand – and slide into a booth. Make sure you always face the door. Order a drink, something smoky and aged. Now you’re ready: reach into your bag, get out this book, and read the hell out of it for a few hours.

Codename Villanelle is a glorious, exciting book with all the pace and plot of a superhero origin movie: a young girl named Oxana, cold-blooded and fearless, murders the men who killed her father. Just before she is executed for her crime, she is released to the ruthless Konstantin, who sees in Oxana’s skills and iciness the perfect assassin – and so, she is put through the brutal training regime that makes her so. On the other side of it, she is no longer Oxana, but Villanelle; merciless killer, a seducer of all, someone in full control. We follow her breathlessly through a series of political assassinations as she slips under the radar, until she catches the attention of Eve Polastri, whose job is to protect, and whose failure to do so sees her career in ruins.

Sexy, fast and good fun, this is a story that begins as fizzy entertainment, as the calculating yet compelling Villanelle mows down or sleeps with all in her path, before adding unexpected emotional depth as Eve struggles with the secrets she must keep from her husband, and the pain and guilt that charge through her. It’s still quite light, but Jennings offers more than enough to sketch a character you care about before sending them to a glittering international locale to shoot someone in the head or prevent the same. And when you’re done reading, and you’re ready to return to your normal life, just do one more thing – make sure you’re not being followed.

Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about crime fiction at

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