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Publisher's Summary

Two sensational unsolved crimes - one in the past, another in the present - are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon. 

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves.” 

This is one of the little mantras Dustin Tillman likes to share with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie? 

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to epitomize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients has been plying him with stories of the drowning deaths of a string of drunk college boys. At first, Dustin dismisses his patient's suggestions that a serial killer is at work as paranoid thinking, but as the two embark on an amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon, he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries - and putting his own family in harm’s way. From one of today’s most renowned practitioners of literary suspense, Ill Will is an intimate thriller about the failures of memory and the perils of self-deception. In Dan Chaon’s nimble, chilling prose, the past looms over the present, turning each into a haunted place.

Cast of Narrators:

Ari Fliakos as the Narrator
Edoardo Ballerini as Dustin
Michael Crouch as Aaron
Alex McKenna as Wave and Kate
Scott Aiello as Rusty 

PRAISE FOR DAN CHAON

Among the Missing

“Unforgettable...hums with life and wry humor.... The stories sneak resolutely up on you, like new weather that hits before you know it.” (The New York Times Book Review

“One of those writers who possess an uncanny and seemingly otherwordly understanding of the human condition...Chaon [is] a remarkable chronicler of a very American kind of sadness, much in the tradition of Richard Yates, Raymond Carver, and Denis Johnson.” (San Francisco Chronicle

You Remind Me of Me

“Remarkable...weaves the threads into a whole that is not only satisfying but devastating.” (Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice) 

“Extraordinary...renews my faith in the unique capacity of literature to help us understand and ultimately respect ourselves and the strange, baffling, complex figures we all can be.” (Houston Chronicle)

©2017 Dan Chaon (P)2017 Random House Audio

What listeners say about Ill Will

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Not for those who like rosy things

This is a very dark book which accounts for the disparate reviews. If you like uplifting stories of triumph over adversity, this is not for you. If you like brilliant writing and unusual characters, give it a try. It is totally unexpected and I am already listening to another one by the same author (equally dark...Mr. Chaon is not a happy man). Yes, the ending could have been different, but I didn't find it as jarring as some of the other reviewers. In fact, it almost had to be so. And the performances are stellar. Ballerini has always been one of my favorite narrators but all of the others do a great job as well.

27 people found this helpful

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A Certain Kind

This is a certain kind of book for a certain kind of person. It's going to divide people. To read it is to take a chance. If you are going to take that chance, don't spoil it by reading tons of reviews. Just dive in.

18 people found this helpful

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Worst waste of time!

Ill Will is horrible! Im just mad i listened to the whole thing. Okay at first, then got dumber and dumber.
You don't know if its schizo, a dream, or delusion. Definitely psychiatric problems. The narration was actually very good. Only reason i kept listened, plus i thought just maybe that it would come together finally. Nope ! I never read reviews before i write mine. If someone enjoyed it,, I'm glad.

8 people found this helpful

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Eerily electric, Cerebral thriller


An eerily electric and cerebral thriller with undertones of horror

How reliable are our memories from childhood? Are some just echoes of hallucinations? Were some placed by suggestion or shaded by self-delusion? Were the unsolved murders of the protagonist's parents really part of a satanic ritual or was all 'evidence' of such attributable to the 1980s hysteria for suspecting murderers-for-Mephistopheles?

Dan Chaon is a maestro at modulating keys of madness and fear in both the protagonist and the reader. As Ill Will progresses in intentional fragments from various POVs and times, the story gets more hazy and more harrowing, with an unsettling sense in the subtext of the sordid and at times the perversely erotic.

And yet, putting this book down is like awaking from a nightmare and feeling the urge of self-preservation to re-enter it because you were right on the verge of figuring everything out.

The novel is the cynosure of creeping doom and escalating uncertainty. So, beware of the scrooping sounds from the chorus of criticasters who need their stories to end in a nice tight package to appreciate literary brilliance. Ill Will will have your hair on end and leave you with cold blood coursing your veins.

7 people found this helpful

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Disappointed

After spending 3 days listening to a book I absolutely could not put down- an extremely unsatisfying ending. The narration for the most part was impeccable- except for 2 small sections where a female narrator took over. I have never heard a more irritating raspy abrasive voice- I actually had to skip those parts since it was so grating! How she was chosen is baffling. Again, other than that, the entire book was amazing on every level -therefore I trusted the author to bring it to an exceptional conclusion. I was extremely let down at the end so after all this, I cannot recommend it.

7 people found this helpful

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STRANGE

This is one weird book. Many characters, disjointed,convoluted!
A story about a totally disfunctional family. The characters are depressing and unlikeable.

5 people found this helpful

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No resolution.

Nothing gets resolved. The writer purposefully leaves almost all questions unanswered. Fantastic narration.

Really good writing, too.

5 people found this helpful

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Still not sure what happened?

What disappointed you about Ill Will?

This was an overlong book. It starts out promising. A who done it. Then it goes off on a tangent about a conspiracy theory as to what happened to these college students who have drowned after drinking heavily. They go on and on about it. You never find out what really happened to the main character's parents that are murdered.

What was most disappointing about Dan Chaon’s story?

The ending was very unsatisfying. You don't get to solve the mystery of the murdered parents. I did skip some chapters in the middle because it was so annoying and repetitive.
I was tired of hearing about the drug use. It was depressing. The part where the son gets lured into an isolation tank is stupid.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrators were fantastic. They were the only thing that kept me interested in the story.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

I was angry, sad and disappointed at the ending.

Any additional comments?

I would not recommend this one.

5 people found this helpful

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Masterfully Written and Read

THIS is what brilliant literary fiction should aspire to. Complex, unflinching, vivid.

Each character is a sharp, distinct personality with aspirations and anxieties ranging from profound to petty. The plot is knotty and intricate yet never confusing or muddled. Chaon's insights into people and modern America are profound.

One of the greatest strengths of the book is Chaon's mastery of character POV: His shifts in point of view are deft and each character's "voice" is distinct. Best of all is the way Chaon gives you multiple views of a character, ranging from their own interior view of themselves to the ways other characters think of them. A masterful demonstration of characters brought to life through contradictory perspectives.

Yes, the subject matter is dark. If you're OK with that, this book is hugely rewarding. I'm so excited about it that I don't want to say more -- one of the joys of this book is discovering its twists and subtleties for yourself.

The cast is equally superb. The fact that this book has a cast rather than a reader is an indicator of how good it is and how much others believe in it.

Highly recommended.

4 people found this helpful

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Enjoyed every sentence

I love Don Chaon's tragic, yet darkly humorous books and short stories. His similes and metaphors are the best.

4 people found this helpful

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  • joanjava
  • 03-26-17

Dark and deliberate.

Interesting twists in p.o.v. Growly voiced narration pitch perfect. Prose self conscious at times. Good listen. Recommended.

4 people found this helpful

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  • avidreader
  • 12-30-18

We need to talk about Dustin

Amazing, long ride of a book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, narration superb, narrative voices just right.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Scot Dutch
  • 09-09-19

Genius

Captivating..uncomfortable...fascinating...
Unsettling...disturbing...brilliant! Highly recommend. A must listen! Gets the little grey cells going.

1 person found this helpful

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  • finnea
  • 09-13-19

Engrossing story

This is an engrossing read with some complex plotting. Chaon relies on the device of the "unreliable narrator" with no one having much of a grip on reality, including the psychotherapist. This more or less makes sense since everyone is in the grip of unremitting trauma, barely able to save themselves much less others. All the characters seem dissociated from their actions and any moral conviction. There is no good or bad here -- just a steady inevitable decline into darkness. Very good of its kind.