‘If We Were Villains’ – M.L. Rio

London, June 2018


The one where Oliver Marks finishes a prison sentence for murder and is greeted by Detective Colborne, the officer who originally investigated the crime and who still wants to know what really happened that night.

Oliver takes Colborne through the events preceding the murder of a member of their Shakespeare heavy theatre group and the narrative ends with a twisty revelation.


Despite wanting to love this – wow, I hated it. The Shakespeare students were so in love with the Bard that instead of speaking like normal people, their exchanges were Shakespeare quotes. I thought when this was mentioned within the first few pages, that it would be used (sparingly!!!) and a way of cementing how ‘into’ Shakespeare those crazy kids were. Unfortunately, it was more of a caution of what was to come.

I did not love learning Shakespeare at school. I fundamentally disagree with learning via texts that require translation and my least favourite thing in the whole wide, GCSE English Literature world, was having a teacher tell us how funny a joke was in Shakespearian language and times, only for a few classmates to laugh as though they got it. Just. No.

So, on a personal note the dialogue of this novel was a distraction from the start. I trawled through it, though found the characters flat and fairly uninteresting. The unravelling of the incidents around the murder were fairly ridiculous.

Read this instead…

I went for this on the basis that it examined the historical acts of the characters while at university, and what happened back then, against who they are now. If you’re looking for something similar, these came to mind:

  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  • Engleby – Sebastian Faulks
  • The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

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