Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Title : If We Were Villains
Author : M.L. Rio
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary mystery
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : April 11, 2017
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
Considering I only recently read The Secret History, after years of build up and anticipation, and had it bomb, I opened my hold of If We Were Villains with some two-fold trepidation; one, because they are so often compared so if I hated (it was one star) the first one, wouldn’t I hate this one? And two, did it make sense to read these so close together, regardless of how I enjoyed them?
And yet here we are with four stars. Which is additionally surprising because for the first third I don’t know that I was really in this story, just along for the ride. But somewhere along the lines it grabbed me and would not let go.
Also, yes, I cried at the end. Let’s just get that out of the way.
But wow, yes, so my biggest takeaway/recommendation would be don’t classify this in the same category as The Secret History. They are definitely aesthetic cousins and there are similarities with the studious fanatic ensemble element but honestly that’s where, for me, it ends. Because in addition to those differences the writing was also vastly superior. I enjoyed these characters, I enjoyed how the narrative was set up, the mystery of it all, and well.. pretty much everything. Except the stuff that broke my heart, that was rude. But in a good way.
Probably the strangest thing, however, was that the majority of this book takes place in 1997 and yet it never felt like it. Neither timeline felt like any particular time and so it feels strange to even mention a distinct year. It will likely help it to endure, to not be bogged down by referenced, but I wonder why the distinction was ever made. I’ll have to check out reviews and see if my little brain missed something.
Having said that, my brief skimming of reviews did reveal that the biggest hurdle of this book for other readers was a lack of familiarity with the subject matter; and while I get that, I cannot claim to be an expert or even an intermediary on the subject of Shakespeare, and yet it still worked for me. I think this is going to be a very hit or miss thing for each reader with or without knowledge of the Bard. But that’s just my two cents.
I will be very keen to read whatever this author comes out with next and, being that this released back in 2017, I’m sure there’s a very long queue to join in anticipation over whatever that might be.