Eve Polastri continues to hunt her deadly prey in this sequel to Codename Villanelle (2018).
When last we left the woman formerly known as Oxana Vorontsova, she was watching a fashion show in Paris and thinking about killing her lover while the British agent determined to find this assassin was sitting down to a cup of tea with her long-suffering husband. Soon, though, Eve will be traveling the globe, one step behind the elusive Villanelle. This slender novella has many of the same satisfactions as the first installment in this series—the basis for the BBC America series. This time, though, it’s Eve who gets to experience luxuries most of don’t even know enough to dream about. In Venice, this solidly middle-class Englishwoman gets a taste for the finer things as she becomes ever more obsessed with Villanelle. And the action is brisk. But this book has the same shortcomings as its predecessor, too—as well as some new ones. Villanelle’s interest in her pursuer is easy to understand; getting inside Eve’s head is a matter of survival but also a source of entertainment for this psychopath. The source of Eve’s obsession remains obscure, though. She has professional and personal motives for stopping Villanelle, but why is it so easy for her to abandon her comfortable life with an adoring husband? Eve is ostensibly the more human character, but she’s a cypher. And Jennings’ use of sexuality as a character trait begins to feel uncomfortable. Not only does Villanelle’s attraction to women start to seem like an aspect of her deviance, but the erotic charge Villanelle inspires in Eve seems to signal her own turn toward darkness. And the gay neo-Nazi who is one of Villanelle’s targets might resemble a well-known figure on the alt-right, but that doesn’t make him any less cartoonish, nor the manner of his death less disturbing.
Fast-paced, underdeveloped, and occasionally problematic.