If We Were Villains Summary

If We Were Villains Summary. it is the debut novel of American author M. L. Rio, first published in 2017 by Flatiron Books. The novel concerns a murder mystery surrounding Oliver Marks, a former actor at the fictional Dellecher Shakespeare conservatory and primarily takes place during his fourth and final year at the conservatory. A series adaptation of the novel is in development. 

The novel drew mixed reviews. The New York Times called it "at once good and bad." Kirkus Reviews called it a "melodramatic, suspenseful debut novel". On Goodreads, it has an average rating of 4.2 stars out of five. Many readers including Cynthia d'Aprix Sweeney, the writer of The Nest, compared this novel to Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

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If We Were Villains Summary

If We Were Villains Summary

Oliver Marks (31), is serving a ten year prison sentence for murdering his former theatre school friend, Richard Stirling. Although Oliver’s confession, the case’s primary investigator, Detective Colborne, has always felt Oliver was not the murderer. He pays one final visit to Oliver in jail, asking him to give him the truth now that Colborne is about to retire from the force.

Oliver offers to recount his narrative once he gets freed from prison. Oliver’s narration takes place between 1997 & 1998, during the final year of theatre school at Dellecher, an elite conservatory that solely educates Shakespeare.

Oliver & his six pals—Filipa, Richard, Meredith, Wren, Alexander & James—are a tightly connected gang of talented performers. After 4 years of educating themselves in Shakespeare’s numerous plays, they embody the exact stereotypes in which they are cast on stage. Tall & wide Richard is the ruler, gorgeous, James is the hero, Meredith is the temptress & Oliver is the hero’s closest companion or sidekick. Nevertheless, a change in this familiar group disturbs the group’s power dynamic.

When James is cast as Macbeth in the yearly Halloween play, Richard is reduced to the part of a spirit. This enrages the ambitious Richard, who becomes angry & bitter. Parallel to the Macbeth sessions, the companions are rehearsing Julius Caesar, with Richard in the title role. Richard’s demeanour during Caesar practise becomes progressively obnoxious. Richard almost drowns James after the Macbeth performance, despite his assertions of innocence. The others save James and chide Richard, but they all agree to keep the incident hidden from their professors.

Despite his apology, Richard’s behaviour worsens. Oliver feels protective of Richard’s girlfriend, Meredith, even as he refuses to admit his feelings for James. When James, Alexander & Oliver learn about Richard’s aggression, they deal to assault him on stage during a performance of Caesar. The show is a big success. Richard assaults Meredith at the after-party because he is jealous of her interacting with another male.

Oliver leads Meredith away & they make love in her chamber, ignoring Richard, who runs out into the woods with a bottle of liquor. On Wren’s request, James follows him; during the ensuing altercation, James strikes Richard in the head with a boat hook. Richard drowns in the lake. James returns to the castle, assuming he is dead. Filipa notices his bloodstained clothes, realises what he has done, and hides it.

The following day, the pals discover Richard in the sea, barely alive. James attempts to save him, but his buddies believe that if he lives, he would be even more violent to them. During the murder inquiry, the pals agree to state that they discovered Richard dead in the sea. Colborne initially believes the death was unintentional but he senses there is more to the story. Meanwhile, due to a family crisis, Oliver is unable to continue his education at Dellecher. As a work-study scholarship, the faculty allows him to clean the castle, which he performs in secret, humiliated. 

Following Thanksgiving, everyone begins working on scenes for Romeo & Juliet for the yearly Christmas masque. James plays Romeo, while Oliver plays the hero’s companion Benvolio. James’s behaviour becomes more highly secretive. Tormented by his guilt, he frequently vanishes from the castle for extended periods of time. Oliver & Meredith start dating, much to the dismay of their classmates from previous years.

The Romeo & Juliet masque was a success & the school’s emphasis is now focused on the spring play, King Lear. Oliver portrays Edmund’s half-brother, the aristocratic Edgar, while James plays the play’s adversary, Edmund. James begins to embody Edmund’s rage, frequently becoming hostile against Oliver during practise. Oliver finds a burned piece of bloodied cloth in a fireplace and hides it, believing it is evidence related to Richard’s death. Oliver begins to suspect that the death was perpetrated by someone in their organisation. 

The group is still dissolving as a result of their pain and the curriculum’s demands. Meredith eventually realises James is to blame for Richard’s murder and informs Colborne of her concerns. The bloodied boat hook is discovered in James’ mattress by Oliver. He approaches James, who admits to the crime. Colborne arrives at a Romeo and Juliet performance to arrest James, but Oliver, motivated by his love for James, takes the blame. Oliver is sent to jail when Meredith refuses to provide evidence at his trial.

In the moment, Oliver discovers that James committed suicide 4 years earlier. Worried, he pays a visit to Meredith, now a well-known TV performer & moves in with her. One day, Filipa delivers him two letters discovered in James’s vehicle near the lake where he committed suicide. The first is a Pericles passage addressed to Oliver. Oliver realises the passage is code for James begging for his assistance. He investigates James’s death & learns that his body was never recovered. The novel finishes with the tantalising possibility that James is still alive.

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If We Were Villains Key Takeaways

  • "If We Were Villains" is a mystery thriller novel that follows the story of seven drama students at an elite arts college in Illinois.
  • The novel has received critical acclaim for its complex characters, intricate plot, and the author's skillful use of Shakespearean themes and motifs.
  • Overall, "If We Were Villains" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that explores themes such as loyalty, betrayal, love, and the nature of art.

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If We Were Villains Characters

  • Oliver Marks, the main character, believes himself to be the least talented member of the acting troupe, a middle child whose father is vehemently opposed to him becoming an actor. Plays The Loyal Sidekick.
  • Richard Stirling, a talented actor who also hides an abusive dark side. He is a second generation actor. Plays The Tyrant.
  • James Farrow, Oliver's best friend and the son of a literature professor and his much younger student. Plays The Hero.
  • Meredith Dardenne, an incredibly beautiful redhead who comes from a wealthy family of watch-makers; Richard's girlfriend. Plays The Femme Fatale.
  • Alexander Vass, a gay former foster-care student of half-Latino descent and drug addict. Plays The Villain.
  • Wren Stirling, Richard's cousin, a second-generation actress. Plays The IngĂ©nue.
  • Filippa Kosta, the only actor in the troupe to remain close to Oliver after he goes to prison. She goes to work for the conservatory after graduation. Plays The Chameleon.
  • Detective Joseph Colborne, The lead detective who put Oliver in prison.
  • Frederick Teasdale, one of only two main teachers of the fourth-year acting students at Dellecher. A kind and older man who favors James as his favorite student.
  • Gwendolyn Oswald, one of only two main teachers of the fourth-year acting students at Dellecher. A strict woman who favors Richard as her favorite student.
  • Camilo Verela, the fight choreographer, personal trainer, and movement coach of the main characters. Described as a young Chilean man with a dark beard and a gold earring.

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Questions and Answers about If We Were Villains Plot

What happens in If We Were Villains? Oliver, the novel's narrator, confessed to murdering Richard and was sentenced to 10 years in prison; however, the detective responsible for the case, Colborne, never fully believed Oliver's confession. The question of who killed Richard and why adds suspense as Oliver finally tells Colborne the true story.

Is there LGBT in If We Were Villains? Amelie oliver was bisexual. there were 3 scenes where they had sex, and only one was described (like 20% of it). it was more about the tension, the building up, the story, the guilt - than it was about oliver's and james love.

Can a 14 year old read If We Were Villains? If We Were Villains is appropriate for older teens. It has some graphic content and violence and requires a mature reader to be appreciated. It is not for the faint of heart or those who are looking for a light, comedic read, though it does have its humorous moments.

Do James and Oliver kiss in If We Were Villains? Oliver and James return to Lear, only to see Colborne waiting in the wings. Realizing their time is up, James kisses Oliver onstage. Before Colborne can make an arrest, Oliver confesses to Richard's murder, using a slightly tweaked version of James' story.

Is there love in If We Were Villains? The degree to which the character dynamics affect this plot is just so so amazing. There is a genuine actual love triangle, as in every branch has some weird tension.

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