If We Were Villains

If We Were Villains

A Novel

Book - 2017
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"Much like Donna Tartt's The Secret History , M. L. Rio's sparkling debut is a richly layered story of love, friendship, and obsession...will keep you riveted through its final, electrifying moments."
--Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest
"Nerdily (and winningly) in love with Shakespeare...Readable, smart."
-- New York Times Book Review

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras.

But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students' world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

If We Were Villains was named one of Bustle's Best Thriller Novels of the Year, and Mystery Scene says, "A well-written and gripping ode to the stage...A fascinating, unorthodox take on rivalry, friendship, and truth."

Publisher: New York :, Flatiron Books,, ©2017.
ISBN: 9781250095282
Branch Call Number: FICTION RIO
Characteristics: 358 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

An intriguing debut novel of
love, friendship, and obsession.
This gripping ode to the stage
will keep the pages turning as
you devour every breathtaking

From the critics

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Feb 18, 2018

This book was one of the first in a long time that I picked up and never put down until it was done. From the very first chapter, you want to take in every word and detail. The characters are all widely different and interesting, and their dynamic is very fun to read. This book is definitely for anyone who likes Shakespeare, as it takes place at an arts school where all the characters we focus on are Shakespeare majors. However, people who don't particularly like Shakespeare will still fall in love with this book. The references are many but do not stop anyone who doesn't understand them from enjoying the book. Rating 4.5/5
- @mae of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

VaughanPLRachelP Oct 05, 2017

I've read The Secret History too many times for me not to compare this book to that at every plot pointand character introduction. There are a lot of things that let it stand on its own, though - the central friendship between the main two characters that in any other book probably would have been sidelined in favour of the bigger characters that stand out a bit more. Shakespeare fans will be doubly thrilled as they look for hints of the twists to come. Compulsively readable, you'll be satisfied when you finish this one.

Sep 07, 2017

Just a comment that the title is spelled incorrectly in your catalog, and therefore does not come up unless you search by author.

Villains, not villians.


Jul 19, 2017

Intriguing look at the special kind of madness that can fester in a conservatory hothouse, when a group of drama students (who speak Shakespearean, all the time) implodes. Think Whiplash, only with actors, the eponymous "villains" à la King Lear.

Pluses: Rio captures the creative energy (positive and negative) of an arts conservatory, especially on the drama side of the house. The first half of the novel courses forward at a dizzying pace. It’s the Bard and his minions on steroids, and the atmosphere is deliciously gothic.

Negatives: Villains loses momentum about halfway through, perhaps due to the strategic (and rather tricky) sequencing of the narrative. Perhaps also because the quoting of Shakespeare gets a tad old, and the characters seem a little contrived—less credible, less compelling.

JCLGreggW Feb 27, 2017

The world of a close-knit group of college students studying Shakespeare is struck by a mysterious death of one of their own. The secrets and obsessions that bind the group together slowly unravel as the tension rises. The book is riveting and will please Shakespeare fans as well as those who love slow-burn literary thrillers like Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY.

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