I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published by Titan on 13th June 2017
Genres: Thriller, Mystery
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’m delighted to be today’s stop on the If We Were Villains blog tour. If you’ve missed the other stops on the tour so far you can find them all at the bottom of this post.
Dellecher Classical Conservatory is an elite art school that is home to Oliver and his six friends; all of whom are in their fourth and final year as theatre students and scholars of Shakespeare. They live, study, act and socialise with one another – their own Shakespeare-loving family.
When we meet Oliver it’s ten years later and he’s just getting out of prison where he has served time for the murder of one of these close friends. He has finally agreed to tell the lead detective the whole, true story.
The novel is structured through Acts and Scenes which tell the story of life at the school, with Preludes that focus on the now and Oliver’s release from prison. I loved this structure, in a book filled with drama, theatrics and plays it fits the theme perfectly.
Now, I studied Shakespeare in school but that was quite some time ago – and even then I’m familiar with only a few of his plays. I was slightly concerned that my ignorance might mean that I wouldn’t enjoy this novel; however I actually enjoyed it very much. I would say though that those more acquainted with Shakespeare or even with theatre as a whole would no doubt enjoy it more.
Our seven characters (I was rather confused at first with all of the names, but I soon caught on) are actors; throughout the year they adopt Shakespearean roles for a variety of plays. Indeed they even converse among one another in quotes at times. However, as the school year progresses it seems that many of the seven are struggling to leave their Shakespearean roles behind, and the line between fiction and reality becomes increasingly blurred.
This is not your typical thriller. Yes, it’s thrilling and gripping but it’s far more than that. Rio weaves her story in conjunction with Shakespearean verse. Indeed she often echoes her characters’ mindsets and actions though their study of The Bard. At first, I’ll admit I struggled a little with this style, but it’s executed so well that I soon became accustomed to the interspersions of verse.
Rio not only expertly combines Shakespeare into her narrative, but also displays her own beautiful writing.
This is quite a rollercoaster read – love, betrayal, envy, passion, friendships, this book has it all – just like the Shakespearean works it echoes.