I have to say that as a huge The Secret History fan this book was right up my alley and it will also be to Shakespeare and theatre enthusiasts. It has everything you’d expect: a close-knit group of friends living together plus additional things like: theatre (plus characters speaking to each other ‘in Shakespeare’), Latin, Greek and of course a murder mystery at the center of it.
The premise of the book is what caught my attention because of it being similar to TSH by Donna Tartt. The characters were very interesting and mysterious in their own ways which is a big plus for me. We have seven friends: Oliver. James, Alexander, Richard, Meredith, Wren and Filippa. You might think that with seven characters the author wouldn’t succeed in telling the story the right way but you’re wrong – M.L. Rio does it brilliantly. The mystery part of the book was in my case sort of predictable because of the actions by the characters. The way the author includes Shakespeare in her dialogue doesn’t ruin the storytelling but it enriches it and makes it unique. While writing this review I keep thinking about the ‘Castle’ they lived in, the classes they had where they drank tea, the theatre rehearsals, the feel of closeness but yet secrecy – this proves that the author can make an interesting atmosphere with her words.
Some parts of the book might be predictable but I viewed them differently – I look at the characters, their actions, the relationships between each of them – I view it from a psychological perspective and not as a complete murder mystery (which this book isn’t entirely).
Now onto what bothered me – I have to say that I didn’t like the way the last 100 pages were thought of or for the sake of it the whole premise of homo-erotic context in this book. Trust me , I appreciate when an author writes a good representation but to me what this part of the book offered wasn’t satisfying because it was featured into its whole premise – to me that made it annoying and it was something that really frustrated me towards the end. Yes, this isn’t the only thing that the book focuses on but it’s something that caught my attention. Feelings aside, this was actually a pretty great debut novel!
This book will definitely be appreciated by everyone who enjoyed The Secret History and it will thrill them in a new and interesting way.
I would like to thank the publisher (Titan Books) for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
M. L. Rio is an author, but before she was an author she was an actor, and before she was an actor she was just a word nerd whose best friends were books. She holds a master’s degree in Shakespeare Studies from King’s College London and Shakespeare’s Globe. When she’s not reading, writing, or explaining why the Authorship Question is actually just a conspiracy theory, she fills her time with friends and family, wine and whiskey, and music made twenty years before she was born.