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Literature / Codename Villanelle

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"His words confirmed what she had always known, even at her lowest ebb: that she was different, that she was special, that she was born to soar."

A 2015 British novel by Luke Jennings, and the basis for the 2018 TV show Killing Eve. Oxana Borisovna Vorontsova, codename "Villanelle", is a psychopathic Russian criminal as dangerous as she is beautiful. She is pulled out of holding prison by a crime organisation who see potential in her and give her freedom in return for her compliance and loyalty, training her as an assassin to add to their books like a human gun. Eve Polastri is a sharp-witted spy who is going to catch her. Formerly of MI6 special ops she's now been hired by NSS with this singular purpose, Villanelle wanted dead or alive.

  1. Codename Villanelle
  2. Villanelle: Hollowpoint
  3. Villanelle: Shanghai,
  4. Odessa (yes, without the name)
  5. Villanelle: No Tomorrow.

For another pan-European seductress called Villanelle, see The Passion.


Tropes relating to Codename Villanelle:

  • Academic Athlete: Strangely enough, Villanelle. Since childhood she has been enormously gifted and highly intelligent, attending one of the best universities in Russia to study French and Linguistics, and also won the gold medal for pistol shooting in the Russian University Games when she was only a freshman.
  • Asshole Victim: It's implied that just before she turned seventeen, Villanelle vivi-castrated the man who raped the woman she'd fallen in love with. It's hard to feel sorry for him.
  • The Cartel: The main one initially named is the Greci family, who stole the Italian mafia drug business back to Sicily from the 'Ndrangheta of Calabria. They have a somewhat lockjaw deal with the Latin American cocaine companies. The mysterious Russians didn't care when Salvatore Greco was killing other mafioso to get his way (committing genocide against entire families), but do take issue when he gets trigger happy and starts killing important Italian and Sicilian legal figures. And a pregnant journalist.
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  • Character Title: The book is named for Villanelle's codename. Obviously.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Villanelle, whose mother died when she was young from Chernobyl-related-cancer, and whose father was murdered by Russian mafia when she was in university.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: It explains that Villanelle was the daughter of a soldier-turned-gangster, but was orphaned when he was killed. She killed her father's killers as vengeance, and she would've received the death penalty if Konstantin didn't recruit her, which lead to her becoming a ruthless assassin.
  • Depraved Bisexual: A classic example is Villanelle, who will sleep with anyone and then happily torture them.
  • Emotionless Girl: Whatever Villanelle's psychopathy, she certainly has barely ever felt emotion — enough to get revenge on her father's murderers, unfortunately.
  • Enfant Terrible: Villanelle has a list of childhood sins, including habitual bedwetting even as she aged, an inability to associate with peers, and setting fire to her orphanage.
  • Fate Worse than Death: It's explicitly expressed that for Villanelle (and presumably everyone else) a cold lonely death in Essex, and being literally tortured for information, is better than suffering the Russian penal system.
  • Femme Fatale: Villanelle. She really likes the dominance of sex (not so much the sex itself) and so is gratified that it is useful in manipulating people.
  • Gratuitous Italian: "omertà" — the mafia code of silence
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The encrypted messages Villanelle receives are innocuous, like casual emails, holiday images, etc.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Villanelle's awesome ability is to arrive, put together her gun, aim, shoot once and hit, destruct her gun and leave in under a minute. From up to 400 metres.
  • Irony: When the Russian criminal Villanelle/Oxana is living in Essex early in her training she's actually hiding out in, of all things, an abandoned Cold War early warning station.
  • It's Personal: Villanelle's attacks on her father's murderers and her beloved teachers' rapist, showing that she does have feelings in there somewhere.
  • Lack of Empathy: The first murder that the Russians are shown photos of is the innocent young pregnant journalist and her deceased unborn child, and they don't show any signs of emotion. Though, the next photos shown are the detached eyes, ears, and tongue, of one of their own associates and they at least take a moment to regard it.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Villanelle's nickname is taken from when she was out shopping after being released, she likes the perfume "Villanelle" and the perfumer explains its story and murderous significance, which she likes even more:
    "'It's called Villanelle,' said the assistant. 'It was the favourite scent of the Comtesse du Barry. The perfume house added the red ribbon after she was guillotined in 1793.'
    "'I shall have to be careful, then,' said Oxana.
    "Two days later, Konstantin came to collect her from the hotel.
    "'My cover name,' she said. 'I've chosen it.'"
  • "London, England" Syndrome: "...a camp to the south of Kiev, in Ukraine..." — places all over Europe are frequently name-dropped without further explanation, from British counties like Essex to Ekaterinburg in Russia, but for some reason the capital city of the Ukraine has it provided.
  • Luxurious Liquor: The language introducing Villanelle describes a private members club in Paris, and after setting the scene moves to Villanelle taking a sip of her Grey Goose vodka Martini. She's not just there as a spy, she clearly belongs there and fits in well. This is done for a lot of other characters that are trying to be worked out, are they pretenders or no? In the same scene as Villanelle's introduction she measures up a young couple, Olivier and Nica, describing her designer clothes and an expensive vintage Taittinger.
  • The Mafia: Some of the pseudo-antagonists that the Russians deal with, the start of the book being a complex introduction to the structures of Italian and Sicilian mafias.
  • The Mafiya: Different factions are mentioned, most notably the Brothers.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: The Russian group meeting in Italy and their all-powerful decisions over Europe's economics and culture and murders.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Villanelle isn't really given details of who has taken her from the police.
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: Deliberately subverted. As glamorous as Villanelle's apartment is, she has left it practically untouched after the previous occupants and so it is decorated in a style not necessarily reflective of her own personality — but not necessarily not reflective, either.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Villanelle's story is given very early on. She is the upper class daughter of a wealthy and decorated Russian war veteran, who was killed by The Mafiya. So she goes and shoots two of them, slits the throat of another, but leaves tracks and is in custody awaiting trial when Konstantin unexpectedly breaks her out.
  • Scenery Porn: Paint a picture of Europe from Jennings' words.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: There's juxtaposition between Nica and Villanelle having a glamorous smoke in the members club in Paris and Konstantin and Villanelle sharing imported cigarettes in a dirty pop-up in the frozen wasteland after he takes her from prison.
  • Super Senses: Villanelle's training heightened her senses and improved her reflexes, which she feels is a good reward for how gruelling it was.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Whilst being tortured, it just reminds Villanelle that she's not in prison anymore and is doing stuff so she starts to enjoy it.
  • Training Montage: Oxana and Frank the ex-SBS training officer running and sparring at the Essex coast as the first part of her training. Apparently he pushes her harder and humiliates her farther than even the orphanage and prison had, so she calls him a donkey-fucker.


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