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If We Were Villains (2017)

by M.L. Rio

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,560715,515 (3.87)26
Fiction. Literature. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:

"Much like Donna Tartt's The Secret History, M. L. Rio's sparkling debut is a richly layered story of love, friendship, and obsession...If We Were Villains will keep you riveted through its final, electrifying moments."
??Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest

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. 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.
Intelligent, thrilling, and richly detailed, If We Were Villains is a captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words
… (more)

  1. 40
    The Secret History by Donna Tartt (RiversideReader)
    RiversideReader: both books about friends at college who get caught up in a group crime
  2. 00
    The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips (Lirmac)
    Lirmac: Two books that explore creativity, crime and their connection to Shakespeare.
  3. 00
    The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (Lirmac)
  4. 00
    The Lessons by Naomi Alderman (dmenon90)
    dmenon90: Academic setting, a group of young and close friends, possible hidden relationship between two members, a great tragedy that is their undoing, though in Alderman's book this tragedy is not a crime.
  5. 00
    A Bright Ray of Darkness by Ethan Hawke (jbvm)
  6. 00
    I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai (jbvm)
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» See also 26 mentions

English (70)  Spanish (1)  All languages (71)
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
“Secrets carry weight, like lead.”

Okay so I’ll admit my Shakespeare is a little rusty so that was slightly problematic while reading this given how much the focus is on theatre. I don’t think that it impacted the main story too much though. I have to say that I enjoyed the tragic dark element of this story. I loved watching how each of the characters were so close, but at the same time they really hid so many secrets from one another and from themselves.

I liked how the author basically had the events of ten years ago being told in retrospect by Oliver. It added to the vibe that was created and really helped you to know when something was coming, because he could build up to it and then say something ominous. I liked the way it was told in Acts and Scenes because it shows how crucial this part of their lives were.

I have to admit that while on the whole I enjoyed the story I had some issues. I think it was incredibly long when it didn’t need to be. At times important things got lost in things that weren’t even remotely as important and seemed to sidetrack the narrative. I loved the romance dynamic. Mainly because the group is so close it’s hard to distinguish who has feelings for who; for us and them. I wish I had gotten more of a certain couple.

However, my biggest complaint with this book is the ending. I really will try to keep it spoiler free but I just wish the book had ended way before it did, because the ending just cheapened the rest of the book for me and made it almost pointless. However, it was a good story overall and I enjoyed the dark academia vibe a lot. ( )
  BookReviewsbyTaylor | Nov 15, 2023 |
"You can justify anything if you can do it poetically enough."

Okay so this book reminded me why I never read thrillers or mysteries. The MCs always come off as assholes who think they're better than everyone else and it's just boring to read things from their perspective. I'm giving it 1.5 stars because the Shakespeare focus was clever ( )
  Moshepit20 | Oct 29, 2023 |
anne carson once said:

“why are you full of rage? because you are full of grief.”

and i think of james when i read that quote ( )
  orderofthephoenix | Oct 22, 2023 |
3.5 ( )
  battlestara | Oct 4, 2023 |
The world of the book is richly textured and enticing. If only it were possible to crawl through the pages of a book and into a world where Halloween-night performances of MacBeth were so common and so thrilling.
Of course the world is only created to shatter, and framing reminds you often that what you don’t know is a current stronger than anything you can see. Still, it’s fun to escape away into a story like this. ( )
  ChrisReisig | Sep 13, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
In this strong and assured first novel, Rio crafts an intricate story about friendship, love, and betrayal. Recommended for readers who enjoy literary fiction by authors such as Tartt or Emily St. John Mandel.
added by ablachly | editLibrary Journal (Apr 17, 2017)
 
This novel about obsession at the conservatory will thoroughly obsess you.
 
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Dedication
For the many weird and wonderful thespians whom I have had the good fortune to call my friends. (I promise this is not about you.)
First words
I sit with my wrists cuffed to the table and I think, But that I am forbid / To tell the secrets of my prison house, / I could a tale unfold whose lightest word / Would harrow up thy soul.
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"You can justify anything if you can do it poetically enough."
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Fiction. Literature. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:

"Much like Donna Tartt's The Secret History, M. L. Rio's sparkling debut is a richly layered story of love, friendship, and obsession...If We Were Villains will keep you riveted through its final, electrifying moments."
??Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest

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. 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.
Intelligent, thrilling, and richly detailed, If We Were Villains is a captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words

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Enter the players.
There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us, though we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.


On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students' world of make-believe. In the morning, fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, one another, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.

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