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  • If We Were Villains

  • A Novel
  • By: M. L. Rio
  • Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
  • Length: 12 hrs and 50 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (426 ratings)

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If We Were Villains cover art

If We Were Villains

By: M. L. Rio
Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
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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 listeners say about If We Were Villains

Average customer ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

A muddled and unconvincing tale.

Not really a who dunnit. More of a coming of age book with underdeveloped themes.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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.

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3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Poor Man’s ‘The Secret History’

If We Were Villains strongly gives the impression of a book created to be the next ‘The Secret History’.
The premise is essentially the same, a group of college kids attempt to get away with their friends suspicious death, however it lacks all that made it’s predecessor good.

The characters are not distinct enough, characters like Wren and Fillipa could easily be the same person with minimal effect on the plot.
The set up is also not as engaging or immersive, too often the reader is thrown into a Shakespeare play, dragging on for pages seemingly without reason.
The pacing is also a little off, with some sections feeling drawn out but others, such as the cast party, have far too much going on for you to follow.

If we were villains can feel as though it is trying a little too hard to jump on the ‘dark academia’ bandwagon, making it seem pretentious and forced as M.L.Rio tries to create a new classic within the genre.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Darkly captivating and language-rich

Thoroughly engaging, especially if you are a lover of Shakespeare. The intertextuality is a delight, but even without it, it holds up as a great and unusual example of crime fiction. If you are a fan of The Secret History, this is a must.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Overindulgent twaddle

Bunch of pretentious, over privileged kids that I really didn’t care about. Weak plot. Just wanted it to end..,

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful drama

The beauty of it hurts, the intensity kills, the tension can be cut with knife. I loved it

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed the story a d the twist

made me think of decisions that are made as a young person in love and the impact they can make.
It was nice too reliving some Shakespeare plays, well done to the author to weaving each play and creating the scenes around eachothet

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

Lovely

great book and narration, emersive and easy to understand, finished in two days please read

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

I might have to read this again

I’m not sure if it’s my lack of Shakespeare knowledge or maybe I missed some of the sub text but I couldn’t find a hint of what all the hype was around this book.
It was good, yes I don’t doubt that but nothing better some other work I’ve read recently. Maybe there’s something I missed so I might give myself some time and read it again.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This is a beautiful story you must read!

I don't know what can I say to convince you to read it or listen to it! It took my breath away and kept me guessing until the last moment. I purchased the audio version of the book and gosh it was the right thing to do. The passion, intonation and overall delivery of the person reading make this book so much better. One of my favourites for sure ♥️

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