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If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
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If We Were Villains (2017)

by M.L. Rio

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2982455,106 (3.76)17
  1. 20
    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 Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (Lirmac)
  3. 00
    The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips (Lirmac)
    Lirmac: Two books that explore creativity, crime and their connection to Shakespeare.
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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
This one fair blew my socks off. Well, it would have but I tend to avoid wearing them whenever possible.

The flow and pacing were perfection! I had to avoid reading it after bedtime or I was liable to read several hundred pages in one shot. Which is only a bad thing because I need sleep. Writing style was so on point I didn't even mind the characters speaking in verse. My favorite character is probably Filippa. Go read it and it will be blatantly obvious why.

You will not see anything coming with this book. you will be totally thrown by this modern take on the whodunit novel. ( )
  thebacklistbook | Dec 5, 2018 |
This book fails against essentially any rubric I can set it -

The characters are bad and all of the dynamics and relationships are forced - tons of segments I wanted to pencil "show, don't tell" into the margins. Richard is their friend and we are meant to believe this because it's what we're told, even though we literally never see him do anything that could be considered friend behavior, he acts like more of an enemy really, to the point that it makes no sense for the characters to resist reporting him to teachers or even police. Meredith is a promiscuous attention seeker we're told, despite the fact that the only encounters she has within the novel are with guys she lives with and has literally known for years. Oliver (the narrator, let me remind you) and James have what is depicted and described as a platonic friendship until midway through the book when we're abruptly told that actually they've been in a deep romantic relationship since before the book even began, and every other character knows and even comments on it...

The storytelling is bad, too. The plot manages to be both predictable (the murder victim is obvious well before anybody dies just because he's the only character with no sympathetic qualities at all, and the first half of the book is spent having him make dick move after dick move; the murderer is obvious quickly as well) and also hilariously full of holes at the same time (how is Oliver convicted if they have someone else's bloody clothes? If even Meredith notices this evidence and there's also a cop who disbelieves Oliver's story enough to visit him for a decade, why do neither of them check it out?). The pacing is horrible - sections slow to a crawl because Rio's unwilling co-author Shakespeare is inserting his full scripts between every 20 pages of new content, so readers have to sit and reread Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth instead of the book they actually bought. In other places reveals get crammed after reversals fast enough to induce emotionally manipulative whiplash - surprise, this character is conveniently dead, mourn while you can because in 5 pages you'll discover the death was faked!

Even the writing itself is bad! I was reading this with a friend and we got into the habit of texting each other horrible similes and metaphors when we'd stumble across them. A few favorites:

"we squinted in the sunlight like tiny newborn babies"

"sleep rolled over the top of me like an affectionate furry pet"

"she laughed like a tigerlily bursting open"

"his cheeks were flushed as if he'd had his face rouged by a little girl who had no idea it was too much"

Nothing else I can say will make my point as well as those quotes (all spoken by a grizzled excon who's just finished a ten year prison term), so I'll just leave it at that. Bad book, don't read. Especially don't read while in withdrawal after a Tartt novel. ( )
  KLmesoftly | Nov 18, 2018 |
Yes, this book certainly has a lot of The Secret History in it. However, it is still a brilliant, incredibly tense and incredibly well made story that I could not put down for one second. I absolutely adore this book! ( )
  ancientbookbride | Sep 11, 2018 |
low key was disappointed that this didn't quite fill the secret history sized hole in my heart but ya know, it was still pretty goddamn fantastic ( )
  ireneattolia | Sep 3, 2018 |
The main attraction of this book is also its biggest problem: its similarity with Donna Tartt's The Secret History. The book is at its weakest when dealing with the story's 'detective' aspect and best when drawing the characters and their relationships. Some of the romantic involvements smack a little of adolescent fantasy, but this is a minor complaint. This is a sound and thoroughly enjoyable book, which would merit a great deal more praise if were not constantly bringing Tartt's masterpiece to mind. ( )
  Lirmac | Aug 1, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (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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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.)
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Book description
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.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 125009528X, Hardcover)

“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.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 14 Jan 2017 03:09:59 -0500)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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

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