If We Were Villains by M L Rio

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If We Were Villains by M L Rio

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: James Donald
Reviewed by James Donald
Summary: A very diverting, interesting and engaging debut novel that is confident and well written. Highly enjoyable with characters who jump off the page.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785656477

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Murder most horrid amongst a group of 4th Year university students of Shakespeare. We open as our protagonist is released from jail having served his time for a crime that he may or may not have committed. What did he do? What happened that year? Why did things turn out the way they did? We have to push our way through the undergrowth of flashbacks to find out.

Although set in America this book has a very British feel to it. The Shakespeare helps produce this feeling but the fact that the author has only just finished studying The Bard in London no doubt plays a part.

In my head this book was being acted out by a cast of late 80s and early 90s cinema luvvies. I see Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Hugh Grant etc. all in their 20s spouting Shakespeare as easily as their contemporary lines.

Many of the other reviews of this work discuss with great affection and praise the twist ending but whilst we do have to wait to have all the details (and at times we need to question the reliability of the narrator) I did not share this opinion. For me the ending was a satisfying conclusion to all the clues that were laid down rather than a twist. It is true that there were a final couple of occurrences that were interesting but I'm not entirely sure that they count as a twist (perhaps I wasn't emotionally invested enough in the character in question).

This is a very fluid and confident debut novel and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Ignore the cover blurb as it is a distraction rather than a suitable whetting of the appetite. I'd go as far as saying that I was distracted slightly by the blurb and kept waiting for things to happen that didn't.

So.

What have we got?

The book is predominantly set in a university and it follows the final year of a group of drama students. The framing device is that the investigating officer doesn't believe the outcome of the original case and, upon the release of the protagonist, he demands that he tells him the whole story.

The framing device is used well and doesn't intrude into the story too deeply. The characters are believable and develop well (with one exception; I don't feel that the aggressive turn of one character is ever fully explored. This is a shame as his behaviour serves as a catalyst to the whole tale. Hints are made, threads dangle but in the end this shift in behaviour seems to be forgotten).

The title of this book comes from a line in King Lear and Shakespeare flows throughout the whole tale. Thematically this is pure Shakespeare meaning that we have got love, twists, unexpected affection, death and heart-ache on a grand scale.

I'd like to see more of this author but I wonder if this was their one big novel due to the centrality of the Bard (that the author themselves has only just finished studying) but I sincerely hope that this isn't the case. Rio has a great talent for storytelling and a wonderful imagination.

Further reading: Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal.

Buy If We Were Villains by M L Rio at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy If We Were Villains by M L Rio at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy If We Were Villains by M L Rio at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy If We Were Villains by M L Rio at Amazon.com.


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