-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. Read more...
-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.
Advance praise for Ill Will
-Dan Chaon's new novel is subtly, steadily unnerving--like a scalpel slipping under your skin and prying it, ever so slowly, from the muscle beneath. Ill Will is a dark Mobius strip of a thriller that will leave you questioning what's perceived and what's imagined, and whether the reverberations of tragedy ever truly come to an end.---Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
-Ill Will not only confirms Chaon as among our country's finest writers but makes clear that he is one of our bravest and most inventive. He embraces risks that would have most novelists turning pale and making the sign of the cross. It's stunning. Read it right now.---Peter Straub, author of The Throat
-Dan Chaon's darkly stunning Ill Will ensnares you from its very first pages. It's both a bone-chilling literary thriller and a complicated tale of family secrets and the strange and dangerous paths grief and guilt can take us on--and it is not to be missed.---Megan Abbott, author of You Will Know Me
-'I believe in bad places, ' one narrator of Ill Will confesses, and he's right. Dan Chaon's damaged characters stalk the elusive truth and what may be a serial killer through a nightmarish Cleveland populated by drug addicts and sexual predators. Intimate and unsparing, this is one of the creepiest books I've ever read.---Stewart O'Nan, author of Songs for the Missing
-With impressive skill, across multiple narratives that twine, fracture, and reset, Chaon expertly realizes his singular vision of American dread.---Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-12-05
- Reviewer: Staff
For this exceptional and emotionally wrenching novel, Chaon (Await Your Reply) plants the seeds of new manias into the hard, unforgiving ground that will be familiar to his readers. In 1983, when psychologist Dustin Tillman was 13, his mother, father, aunt, and uncle were murdered. Dustin accused his adopted older brother, Rusty, a sadistic kid attracted to Satanism, of the crime, and Rusty was incarcerated. The murders shaped Dustins life as much as they did Rustys; his Ph.D. dissertation was on Satanic ritual abuse, and he practices hypnotherapy despite its detractors. Now in his early 40s, hes an ineffectual father of two boys and an oblivious husband to a dying wife in suburban Ohio. Having convinced himself of his vision of the past and clinging only to memories of happiness, hes unnerved to learn that Rusty has been exonerated and released. What he doesnt know is that Rusty has reached out to Dustins youngest, Aaron, a teenage junky sliding into Clevelands dangerous underground, urging the boy to talk to Wave, Dustins estranged cousin, who may know the truth of the murders. The paths of several characters converge as one of Dustins patients convinces him to investigate a spate of drownings and Aarons best friend Rabbit is pulled from the river, dead. With impressive skill, across multiple narratives that twine, fracture, and reset, Chaon expertly realizes his singular vision of American dread. (Mar.)
No one who has read Dan Chaon’s fiction will be surprised to learn that Ill Will, his new novel, is relentlessly bleak. It’s a murder mystery and a literary thriller, a multilayered nonlinear narrative and a psychological portrait of the dark side of human nature. You’ll lose track of the number of deaths, but you’ll remember the daring storytelling and the skillful treatment of characters who live with repressed memories.
If you’re Dustin Tillman, a 41-year-old Cleveland psychologist, widower and father of two teenage sons, then you’ve got horrific memories to repress. When Dustin was 13, his parents and an aunt and uncle were murdered on the eve of a camping trip. A Pulitzer-nominated photograph of Dustin running from the scene with his twin cousins, Kate and Wave, became famous.
The murder was blamed on Dustin’s adopted older brother, Rusty, in part because of Dustin’s testimony; he claimed that Rusty had engaged in satanic rituals involving baby rabbits, a doll and a candlelit pentagram. Now, 27 years after the murder, DNA evidence exonerates Rusty, who has always proclaimed his innocence and contended that Dustin’s testimony was based on faulty recollection.
Rusty’s re-emergence is only one of the factors that complicate Dustin’s life. In addition to his wife’s death and his younger son’s growing heroin addiction, Dustin has a patient, a Cleveland police officer put on leave for a “psychological difficulty,” who recruits Dustin to help solve a series of murders of college-age men who have drowned on dates that follow a pattern. And the next date to fit the pattern is coming up.
Throughout Ill Will, Chaon plays with the novel form: second-person narration, emails, shifting perspectives, emojis and, most radically, parallel columns of prose that show concurrent thoughts and episodes in characters’ lives. The result could have been style for style’s sake, but, in Chaon’s capable hands, the novel is a brilliant depiction of mental illness. Not a pretty picture, but masterfully painted.