If We Were Villains by M.L Rio
Published by Titan Books
Expected publication 16 June 2017
I was given an ARC by the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it.
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.
As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.
When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
I sit with my wrists cuffed to the table and think, But that I am forbid / To tell the secrets of my prison house / I could tale unfold whose lightest word I would harrow up thy soul. The guard stands by the door, watching me, like he’s waiting for something to happen.
WHAT I THOUGHT
If We Were Villains is a great read and held my attention from start to finish. This book reminded me a lot of The Secret History by Donna Tartt which is also a great read. I liked the layout of the book, split into scenes and acts like a play. The characters are all well-written and really come to life, especially Oliver who is a great first person narrator. The book is a little darker than I expected at times but this works really well. If We Were Villains has an almighty twist towards the end when Oliver reveals what really happened the night his friend died. A twist can work really well or completely ruin the book depending on how it’s written. Rio really pulls it off. I had no idea what really happened so the truth floored me a little. My only issue is that Richard, the murdered friend, gradually turns into a cartoon-like villain in the weeks leading up to his death so when he breathes his last his friends are sort of relieved. I thought this was a bit over the top. Nevertheless, If We Were Villains is a great mystery and well worth a read if you’re tired of police procedurals.