Ill Will (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Dustin Tillman is a forty-something psychologist living in Cleveland. He’s a regular guy with a horrific past. Thirty years ago, his adopted brother Rusty was convicted of murdering Dustin’s parents, aunt and uncle. The story opens with Dustin receiving the astounding news that Rusty is being released from prison because his sentence is overturned as a result of DNA analysis. If Rusty is innocent, who is the real killer? This novel was unbelievably disturbing, but I could not stop reading it. This is Dan Chaon at his best.

— Sharon K. Nagel

This novel powerfully portrays the psychological aftermath of a childhood damaged by a cruel and manipulative older brother and by a horrible murder. The story alternates between events in Dustin’s dark childhood and his current life as a psychologist being manipulated once again, this time by an unusual client obsessed with a theory about a long-running serial killer in the area. Dustin’s beliefs about his childhood and his current life are challenged by the release of his brother from prison, by his growing estrangement from his sons, and by the client who insinuates himself into Dustin’s daily life. Suspenseful, creepy and hard to put down, the story is ultimately sewn together in a surprising but oddly satisfying way. 

— Kay Wosewick

March 2017 Indie Next List

“Ill Will is a house of mirrors reflecting intergenerational psychodramas in which the abuses of a parent insidiously infect subsequent generations. Violent parricide, false memories, drugs, and sex fuel a double plot line and vivid character development and taut dialog propel the reader as scene shifts blur the roles of the offender and the injured. Chaon adroitly leads us through a literary haunted house, then leaves us to find our own way out.”
— Bill Fore (W), Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT


NATIONAL BESTSELLER - 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.

The Wall Street Journal - NPR - The New York Times - Los Angeles Times - The Washington Post - Kirkus Reviews - Publishers Weekly

"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.

Praise for Ill Will

"In his haunting, strikingly original new novel, Dan] Chaon takes formidable risks, dismantling his timeline like a film editor."--The New York Times Book Review

"The scariest novel of the year . . . ingenious . . . Chaon's novel walks along a garrote stretched taut between Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock."--The Washington Post

About the Author

Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications; Await Your Reply, which was a New York Times Notable Book and appeared on more than a dozen best-of-the-year lists; and Stay Awake. Chaon has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780345476043
ISBN-10: 0345476042
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: March 7th, 2017
Pages: 496
Language: English