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Review: If We Were Villains

Title: If We Were Villains
Author: M. L. Rio
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Literary Fiction
Page Count: 368
Published by: Flatiron Books
Date Published: April 11, 2017
You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.


If We Were Villains is such a tantalizing, captivating, wholly engrossing novel that plays to the reader who enjoys their stories to build slowly, following along characters that drive the story onwards rather than actionable plot. But while it can feel like not a lot is happening, M.L. Rio writes with such atmospheric tension that every page just feels more and more suspenseful, as you and the characters descend a little more into collective, permeating madness.

While this is, of course, a story heavily based on Shakespeare and his plays, with numerous passages and stanza’s from said plays, this never felt over my head or unapproachable. I believe both a Shakespeare novice and bard buff can appreciate this well crafted yarn.

Wholly entertaining, completely, darkly atmospheric with fantastic core-group friendship dynamics – trust, betrayal, love, lust, rivalry, and support. Intricately plotted and just so dang smart, these morally grey characters will have you thinking long after you turn the final page – who was right? Who told the truth? Is this the ending? Intelligent without pretension, If We Were Villains is the cream of the Dark Academia crop.

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