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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 40s 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.

©2017 Dan Chaon (P)2017 Random House Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • cristina
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 03-23-17

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.

22 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

STRANGE

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

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

No resolution.

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

Really good writing, too.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • M. Kramer
  • Paoli, Pa. United States
  • 04-01-17

Tense

A great story. Well written and very well read. The readers did a great job.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

For those unafraid of the dark

What did you love best about Ill Will?

Dan Chaon is that rarest of novelists, he writes true literary thrillers. While his subject matter is dark as hell, his language is as gorgeous as his is tale compelling.

What other book might you compare Ill Will to and why?

Honestly, this book doesn't remind me of any other work, even Mr. Chaon's previous novels. It stands alone.

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

The use of multiple narrators for the many different point of view characters was really effective. The diverse characters certainly would come across as richly on the page, but when read this way with multiple voices there's a kind of, almost, theatricality to the tale.

If you could take any character from Ill Will out to dinner, who would it be and why?

I think it would have to be Dustin Tillman's wife. We're close in age, and she seems rather more centered than her husband!

Any additional comments?

I've already mentioned twice that this is a dark novel, but I think it bears repeating. I'm not necessarily attracted to the dark, but the story Mr. Chaon tells is like a slow motion train wreck that you can't possibly look away from. I love that the author doesn't answer every last question that come up in the story, leaving me with food for thought and a desire to visit the book again. I read hundreds of books each year, and this one made my annual Top 10 List. Loved it!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Dark and mysterious

Don’t listen to all the other reviewer’s whining about the ending! If you have half a brain and you like these types of books you can definitely figure out what happened. The narration is excellent, the character development is deep, and the story itself is something you can’t walk away from.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

No escape

If you're looking for a way to distract yourself from the fact that we're all dying, and will die this ain't it. Incredibly dark and incredibly intriguing

4 1/2 forks

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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At the top of his game

Chaon takes you on an amazing ride. He never disappoints but this one is incredibly and overwhelming dark, personal and engaging. The multiple perspectives and overall time and place are brilliantly evoked. Terrific!

1 of 1 people found this review 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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful