Summary and book reviews of If We Were Villains by M Rio

If We Were Villains

by M L. Rio

If We Were Villains by M L. Rio X
If We Were Villains by M L. Rio
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2017, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2018, 368 pages

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Book Summary

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

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, ingénue, 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.

SCENE 1

The time: September 1997, my fourth and final year at Dellecher Classical Conservatory. The place: Broadwater, Illinois, a small town of almost no consequence. It had been a warm autumn so far.

Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us, though we saw no farther than the books in front of our faces. We were always surrounded by books and words and poetry, all the fierce passions of the world bound in leather and vellum. (I blame this in part for what happened.) The Castle library was an airy octagonal room, walled with bookshelves, crowded with sumptuous old furniture, and kept drowsily warm by a monumental fireplace that burned almost constantly, regardless of the temperature outside. The clock on the mantel struck twelve, and we stirred, one by one, like seven statues coming to life.

"'Tis now dead midnight," Richard said. He sat in the largest armchair like it was a throne, long legs outstretched, feet...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
1. In the very first scene, Oliver says, "We did wicked things, but they were necessary, too - or so it seemed. Looking back, years later, I'm not so sure they were... and now I wonder: Could I explain it all to Colborne?" (page 5). Having finished the story, which of the "wicked" things do you think were necessary or inevitable? Which were not? What, in the last ten years, might have caused Oliver to change his mind?

2. Throughout the story the fourth-years perform four of Shakespeare's plays and quote the other plays and poems in their everyday conversation. Shakespeare's works - and especially the tragedies - are saturated with love, loss, jealousy, betrayal, and violence. How do these themes manifest themselves ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

She has an incredible gift for prose. I can hardly wait for her next book! (Melinda H). I loved every minute of it, thought it was brilliantly done, and was thoroughly captivated by the players and curious how it would end. A very special, well-thought-out, and well-executed debut novel (Diane S). This is one of the most intriguing, intricate and clever novels I've read in a long while (Shaun D).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review (1136 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Though the plot twists may not surprise some readers, this is a solid mystery that keeps the pages turning.

Booklist

Recommended for readers with refined literary tastes, and those looking for "something like" Donna Tartt.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. This novel about obsession at the conservatory will thoroughly obsess you.

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

Author Blurb Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of Station Eleven
This is a rare and extraordinary novel: a vivid rendering of the closed world of a conservatory education, a tender and harrowing exploration of friendship, and a genuinely breathtaking literary thriller. I can't recommend this book highly enough, and can't wait to read what M. L. Rio writes next.

Author Blurb Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet and June
Full of friendship, betrayal, and passionate devotion, this is a page-turning literary thriller whose final, shocking twist you won't soon forget.

Reader Reviews

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 ...   Read More

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, ...   Read More

Melinda H. (Cornelius, NC)

captivating!
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 ...   Read More

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,...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Shakespeare by Any Other Name

According to Guinness World Records, William Shakespeare is the world's best-selling playwright, with in excess of four billion copies of his plays and poetry making it to press over the centuries. He is also history's most filmed author; his works have been adapted into 420 feature film and TV-movie versions (Hamlet alone has been performed on screen 79 times). While his plays are timeless works of art, some people find them challenging due to the Elizabethan prose. Over the years many attempts have been made to adapt the plays into a format that contemporary audiences might find more accessible (some resulting in a more faithful interpretation than others).

The past 25 years in particular have seen a rise in the production of ...

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