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Summary

Oliver Marks has just served 10 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.

©2017 M. L. Rio (P)2017 Macmillan Audio

Critic reviews

"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 best-selling author of The Nest)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

If it be not now yet it will come.

Ten years ago, Oliver had been one of a group, both male and female, of seven aspiring actors, the only survivors in their chosen genre to obtain the fourth year of a rigourous ànd prestigious arts college. They lived, worked and played together, grew close, knowing each other's foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Apparently a tightly knit band of friends, internally there were, nevertheless, growing rifts of tensions, love, fear and jealousies.
The intervening ten years, Oliver had spent in prison.

A beautifully crafted book, If We Were Villains takes the reader inside the almost isolationist group, seeing their last year together from Oliver's point of view, introducing and giving life to each of the other six companions as well as a few other members of the college faculty, and delightfully engages in a few of the productions - Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and, finally, King Lear - in which the group took centre stage. Shakespearian quotations are frequently used by the students in conversational repartee.

Continuing the theatrical theme, the book is divided into five acts, each of which is subdivided into scenes, written in the first person, as Oliver relates to a just retired police detective the events that had occurred in the period ten years ago which led to his imprisonment. And each act begins with a single prologue set in present day, the situation as it now exists. This device works well and makes understanding easy. The whole story works well, simple to follow, as well as helping to build tension. And the story itself is a good one although flattening out somewhat towards the end.

Narrator Robert Petkoff had a formidable task: not only to read clearly, with understanding of the text, but also to portray the individual protagonists both in conversation and as actors performing in the Shakespearean plays, a double identity conundrum. And he succeeds admirably, each being distinct and recognisable - a remarkable achievement and one which greatly enhanced the experience of the book.

If We Were Villains has been likened to Donna Tart's Secret History, and there is a similarity of feeling, but they are very different. M.L.Rio's book is less of a mystery but still a complex interaction of a close 'family' of strangers, at the beginning of their adult lives and each with their future hopes and expectations, brought together by their love of Shakespeare.
An easy and absorbing read. A book to savour and enjoy.
Recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • ARae
  • 10-10-17

amazing

I really enjoyed this audio book. the voice was prefect the plot and characters really suck you into this world. I would recommend this to anyone.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • hannah
  • 21-06-17

just wow!

guessed the ending early bc I know Shakespeare and was so wrapped up I couldn't put it down. I so, so hoped I was wrong and sobbed silently the last chapter. heart wrenching and beautifully human. a must read!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • W Perry Hall
  • 20-06-17

If I Were a Numb-Skulled Nelly-belled Nincompoop


Might Have Been Entitled

If I Were a Numb-Skulled Nelly-Belled Nincompoop ...
(But Alas, I Shan't Spoil It for You.)

2.5 bumped up to 3 for debut novel.

The book was heavy on histrionics for narrative fiction (as opposed to a play); too predictable to be a mystery novel; definitely too hokey for literary fiction. For example, without warning, the characters in the midst of regular dialogue tend to break into pages of lines from Shakespeare.

Plus, I just never connected with any of the characters.

Nevertheless, the story should much please Shakespearean "folly-fallen, foot-lickers," and all fans of soapy suspense.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Donna
  • 09-05-17

I never write reviews, but...

What would have made If We Were Villains better?

This is a ZERO star story! The characters are terrible, self-involved people and the story is even worse...I just wanted it to be over. I can't get my time back, but I will most certainly ask for my credit back. Nothing can save this book, it belongs in a literary dust bin!

Would you ever listen to anything by M. L. Rio again?

NO!

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Robert Petkoff?

No one, not even Jim Dale, could fix what is wrong with this story. It's not the fault of the narrator, the writing is terrible!

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Anger, disappointment and sheer boredom.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • RueRue
  • 25-04-17

Slow building tragedy

The narration by Robert Petkoff absolutely makes this story emotionally compelling. The plot itself is quite reminiscent of "The Secret History", using Shakespeare and theatre as a backdrop. I found the story a little over-long, especially as the outcome was signaled well before the end. Excellent character development, and Robert Petkoff gave each character a recognizable voice.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 27-04-17

Narration OUT of this WORLD

The Masterful narration managed to make a full emotional story even more believable. I found myself immersed fully .

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • karaboo
  • 20-04-17

Wow

I loved this roller coaster of a book. The word choice kept me captivated. I don't go crazy over fine art and Shakespeare, though this book had a spell over me with all its passion that made me want too! I highly recommend listening to this gem!

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Miamigrrl
  • 17-04-18

Way too long a tease

I was so frustrated with this book I almost didn't finish it. It's over 12 hours but there is about 6 hours' worth of novel in it - the rest is filled in with bits of Shakespeare plays. At first I was delighted because I am a Shakespeare buff but it got old that the students were always quoting, even when they were "drunker than I had ever seen him." The premise of the novel is a tease: we know right away a crime has been committed but we don't know what the crime was or when it occurred or "who dunnit." The first "reveal" took WAY too long and so did the second. If this had been a physical book I would have thrown it across the room. I was disappointed in the ending - it didn't seem plausible to me.

This author can really write - the language is beautiful - but IMO the book needs some serious editing.

The narrator was wonderful - his voice sounded just the right age for college students and he varied it nicely among the characters.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • SayF
  • 24-06-17

Make it to the end!

Pretentious, lofty, and soul achingly heartfelt, Is We Were Villains was both exactly what I expected, and not at all what I thought.
I like many other reviewers here (perhaps review readers as well) found this book in search of something similar to The Secret History, which I read a few years ago, and have always since cherished. Fans of such novel will, I think, find solace in this book as well.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael C.
  • 12-05-17

Thoroughly enjoyed

The performance is outstanding and the characters true in their self-absorption and willful disregard for anyone and anything outside their small world. It feels very much like colllege days. The author does an excellent job drawing the reader into their world.