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Publisher's 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)

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What listeners say about If We Were Villains

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'Lets sit upon the ground and tell sad stories...'

This is the perfect combination of a fantastic book with a fantastic reader. Petkoff captures Oliver and each character excellently and the quoted Shakespeare was equally superb. A thrilling story with some real characters you can love. Highly recommend, especially if you are a fan of the theatre or Shakespeare, this will tickle your fancy and your inner theatre kid in just the right ways.

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THIS IS IT! MY FAVOURITE BOOK OF ALL TIME!

OH GOD. HOW DOES ONE EVEN RECOVER FROM A BOOK LIKE THIS?
When I tell you that I give heavy with the dark academia aesthetic, this is the exact book you need to read to understand what I mean. The theatre nature about this book made me nostalgic for the days I sent studying theatre performance in my undergrad. The love these seven students have for Shakespeare reminded me of how much I love him too. I wish I was able to memorise passages well. I’d never stop quoting Shakespeare. Dellecher is the kind of school that you wished you went to for your academic learning. I wish I had a tight group of friends like the ones in this book (minus the murder bit). The unique element that I enjoyed about this book was how the climax happened early in the book. I won’t lie, I was able to guess who was going to get killed and who did it so there really wasn’t much for the element of surprise. Rio brilliantly showed us the downfall of the students and how such a tragedy can impact each of their souls and lives. Honestly, nothing short of magnificent. I cried at the ending because I didn’t expect it whatsoever. The alternate timelines was also beautifully done. Not too much of the present tense and just the right amount of past tense. The characters are uniquely flawed. The only character I wish we got more from was Wren. God I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this book. This is the kind of book that ruined me emotionally and will stick with me for a lifetime. I’m glad I have a physical copy so that I can go back and read it all the time. Rio had me captivated the entire time. I never wanted to put it down. How does one go back to normal after discovering their favourite book of all time?

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-06-2018

Fake deep with a side of bland

Whomever compared this to The Secret History doesn't deserve anymore books. I was so excited for something even nearly comparable to my favorite Donna Tartt novel that I leaped into this with reckless abandon. The story is just meh and the characters are shallow. The only two adjectives the author seems to have stocked up for female characters are slim & curvy.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Miamigrrl
  • 17-04-2018

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Ashley C
  • 10-10-2017

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • W Perry Hall
  • 20-06-2017

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • RueRue
  • 25-04-2017

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • hannah
  • 21-06-2017

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 person found this helpful

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  • Donna
  • 09-05-2017

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • graminator
  • 27-04-2017

Narration OUT of this WORLD

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

5 people found this helpful

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  • karaboo
  • 20-04-2017

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 people found this helpful

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  • Nikki
  • 20-12-2021

Outstanding Narration!

The story was really good and gripping, but I have to say, what really stood out is the narration. He did an amazing job and really enhanced the story, which was good in its own right already. Very impressive.

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  • Steven Sugden
  • 18-07-2018

A muddled and unconvincing tale.

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

2 people found this helpful

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  • Norma Miles
  • 09-05-2018

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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 21-01-2022

Breathtaking, captivating, well written

I absolutely loved this book. It is so well written and captivating. At the beginning I thought I would struggle with the fact that a big part of the protagonists' conversations include quoting Shakespeare, but it works so so well. You quickly come to understand the world thought their eyes and get immersed in it.
I particularly loved the narration, it really added the final touch to the whole experience. Would definitely recommend

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-12-2021

Not easy but worth it

Great book well written, not an easy listen but give it time, well worth giving it your full attention

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  • Kirsikka Wirtanen
  • 01-12-2021

wonderful

i couldnt stop listening to this. actually i got so immersed into it that i could feel every emotion the characters went through. my heart will ache for them and the tragedy of their story for a long time after this too, im sure.
overall a wonderful book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-11-2021

This book broke my heart

When I read the last sentence I nearly threw it across the room! But I loved every minuet of it. The characters, the plays, the ongoing tension between everyone the whole way through the story, just 😍.
The Shakespeare elements could be a bit much for someone who doesn't read that kind of thing, and gave off a cultish vibe, which is acknowledged by Oliver eventually, but personally I enjoyed it.

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  • Clare Tunilla
  • 25-05-2020

I loved this

I loved this.

I didn't think I would. In fact, I put it off for months. But I loved this so much. The mystery, which I didn't see until more than half way through, the angst. Everything. Also, I highly recommend the audiobook.

Because of this I have borrowed two of the mentioned Shakespeare plays from my library.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bethan Hope
  • 22-05-2020

just perfection

I loved this book when I first read it but if anything I've loved listening to it more, this audiobook is so well read that it makes the story and characters come to life and the sections with a lot of Shakespeare lines which I found quite hard to understand and get meaning from in the book work so much better when you listen to it.
the story itself is so well put together it's something you just can't help but fall in love with.
I could never reccomend this book enough.

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  • Kerry C.
  • 04-03-2020

Amazing! Especially for Shakespeare fans!

I loved this! Fans of ‘The Secret History’ I imagine will love this too. Such interesting characters, full of twists and turns right up to the last minute. So good!!!

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-01-2020

Probably better reading it to yourself

The story was fine and the narration was really good at times but huge chunks of the book are Shakespeare plays which felt relentless and I would probably have skipped over these passages if I was reading it to myself. Similarly, quite often there are long dialogue scenes between characters which are written out like a script and it was irritating to have the different characters names read out before every line. I kept listening because of the central drama/ mystery.

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