If We Were Villains

By M.L. Rio

Reviewed by Anne-Sophie Olsen

Ten years after his incarceration, former acting student Oliver Marks finally consents to telling the truth about the dark events that took place at Dellecher Classical Conservatory all those years ago. Jumping between narration of the past and the present, Oliver reveals that volatile personalities and dramatic extremes go hand in hand at the conservatory, to the detriment of all. When the distinctions between actor and character begin to blur, the hidden rivalries and loyalties of a troupe of seven Shakespearean drama students (one of them Oliver) surface, and give way to dangerous choices that propel the story forward with thrilling rapidity. Though author M. L. Rio occasionally overindulges in theatrical and literary pedagogy, and sometimes flattens Detective Colborne into a mere prompter so that Oliver can deliver (occasionally contrived and cliche) revelations about his past, she has successfully created a compelling drama. In vivid, evocative prose interwoven with the lyrical lines of Shakespeares plays, Rio has written an aesthetically mesmerizing story steeped in the theatre.

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