Shaun D. (Woodridge, IL)
An Exceptional Mystery
This is one of the most intriguing, intricate and clever novels I've read in a long while. If you're a fan of Matthew Pearl, Donna Tartt, Elizabeth George, Dan Simmons, Ian Caldwell, etc then you simply Must Read this book! The plot(s) are like quicksand--before you know it you are fully invested and any efforts to anticipate twists or turns are completely wasted as Rio has you exactly where she wants you at all times. I would recommend brushing up on your Shakespeare as I was more than a bit rusty and had to pause several times to do a bit of quick side research to reacquaint with plots, characters etc. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and sincerely appreciate being given the opportunity to read and review.
Carol S. (Vienna, VA)
Are we all just players?
I could not put this book down. "If We Were Villains" is a gripping examination of the roles that individuals adopt as part of a group that is as close as, or closer than family. In this book, the individuals are college students studying theater, specifically Shakespeare, in an intense environment. As with any group, the dynamics among the individuals morph as the pressure accelerate. Love, hate, envy, desire, all ebb and swell day to day leading to an horrific event.
This beautifully written book raises questions of loyalty, sacrifice and selfishness. And the question remains, do we adopt the role of hero or villain, or is the role assigned to us? Highly recommended.
Katherine P. (Post Mills, VT)
A Tragedy in Five Acts
Could not put this book down, literally inhaled it in one and a half days! Only took time out when it was impossible to stay awake. The prologue takes place in the visitors' room of a jail in Illinois. A retired policeman has come to visit an inmate, soon to be paroled, as he has for ten years, every two weeks. The inmate, 31 years old, has served the ten years for having murdered a fellow classmate at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a small but prestigious school devoted to the training of thespians, dancers, artists and writers. The inmate had been one of seven fourth year actors--the only seven left after four years of culling lesser talented would be Shakespearean performers. The visitor is the policeman who investigated the death of one of the others. He is not satisfied that this particular player is the one responsible and he has come for the last visit, hoping to convince the inmate to tell him the whole truth of the tragedy that befell the seven in the last year of their studies.
And so begins the telling, by Oliver Marks, of the lives of seven young people finishing the training that would, hopefully, lead them into successful lives and careers as Shakespearean stars. There are the three girls: Wren, as small and delicate as her name implies: Meredith, the red - headed, sexy, but insecure temptress; Filippa, the level-headed, unflappable but detached somehow dependable friend to all. And there are the four boys: Richard, the robust, tall, deep -voiced who is always the lead male in any of the plays they perform; Alexander, the pot smoking lesser player; James, the delicate, almost pretty gentle soul; and Oliver, James' room-mate, best friend and usually the best friend of the play's hero, as well.
We follow them through the course of the year, right to the death of one and the imprisonment of another, as Oliver takes the policeman, Joe Colborne, and us back ten years in time and back to Dellecher to relive the year and its events. Told in scenes in each act, it is as though the curtain has lifted and all the players have returned. What happens in this play is funny, heart-breaking, warm, sad, youthful, wistful and tragic--it is Shakespearean, it is true to life and yet, it is somehow not exactly real--the players are isolated from the reality of the outside world--but then, aren't all kids in school, until they graduate to the true everyday reality of the rest of the world?
Melinda H. (Cornelius, NC)
For those of you who are Shakespeare fans, this is an innovative tale of intrigue with a unique twist on language and method. For those who, so far, haven't come to love the Bard's style, this will convert you! Although I was able to predict the final result, the journey was so well composed, I found myself unable to walk away. Even when I did put the book down, the characters didn't leave me. Set in a small arts college, Rio develops characters and place in a way that makes you feel as if you are there - so vivid are the rooms, the grounds, and the people. And as twisted as this group of theater students is, I was connected to them.
Written almost like a play without the stage directions; I loved the inclusion of the original language. Rio has an incredible gift for prose allowing one inside this group of characters in a way few authors do. I can hardly wait for her next book!
Anna S. (Auburn, AL)
If We were Villains
A very satisfying mystery! We meet our protagonist the day he is released from ten years in prison for a crime he may not have committed. We also meet the policeman who was instrumental in his going to prison and who, as it happens, has never been completely satisfied that the right person went to prison. The story unfolds as we learn what happened that led to death of one of a group of seven very talented students at an exclusive theater arts school. As with any good mystery, there are many plausible suspects.One of the highlights for me in getting acquainted with the characters was "hearing' them converse in quotations from Shakespeare. I think this book will be a surefire hit with book clubs!
Carol N. (Indian Springs Village, AL)
Great debut novel!
If We Were Villains is a book about obsession and seemingly complete immersion in the study and performance of theater, namely Shakespeare. Seven senior theater majors study, live and perform together in a world of their own. One of them has just completed serving time for a crime that he may or may not have committed and the retiring lead detective wants to understand what actually happened. This book is a murder mystery but it also is a study in obsession and tragedy. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the mystery kept me guessing until the reveal. This is a remarkable debut novel and I can't wait to hear more from M.L. Rio.
Jackie W. (Bellevue, WA)
Kudos to M.L. Rio!
What a treat it is to read this dramatic debut novel, with each character so well rendered that one can virtually step into this circle of friends and join them as one of the characters in their Shakespearean school performances. The suspense builds toward the end of the book, with expert foreshadowing delivered in the Bard's own words, delivered by each potential murderer. Along with the murder, the reader must figure out the true nature of the relationship between each student......friendship, jealousy, obsession, lust, love, or enabler. I look forward to more from this author!