• West Cork Literary Festival 2021

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Young Adult

By Sophie O'Loughlin

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“Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

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.”

Wow. Just wow. This book is good. I loved every single second of it.

Having recently read Macbeth, the use of Shakespeare in this book helped me to understand it better and appreciate it more. The book follows a group of young Shakespeare scholars after one of them is murdered. However it’s not like a normal murder mystery story. It’s much more interesting than that. They’re wonderfully pretentious and snobby characters. They each have their own distinct voices and personalities which really help to make this book brilliant.

Shakespeare quotes are woven skilfully into the text; the gang speak in Shakespeare which seems appropriate for a rather isolated bunch of theatre nerds who have dedicated their lives to the bard. The constant quoting is super cool; it’s unlike any other book I’ve ever read and adds an extra dimension to it.

I loved the narrator: he was the nicest of the lot of them and was a well developed character.

The story itself was also amazing; the writing was spectacular, especially the Halloween scene which was really vivid and came alive. Writing a description of theatre seems to be pretty difficult; I see most writers just skip to after the event or have a half hearted and wooden description of the play but this was just brilliant. The plot overall was gripping and entertaining and I was barely able to put it down. If it had been a bit shorter I would have read it all in one sitting.

Overall I give this book 10/10 and it’s probably the best book I’ve read so far this year.

(c) Sophie O’Loughlin

Order your copy online here.

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