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.
NAMED ONE OF THE 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY PUBLISHERS WEEKLY AND KIRKUS REVIEWS • A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK
“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
“In his haunting, strikingly original new novel, [Dan] Chaon takes formidable risks, dismantling his timeline like a film editor and building the narrative with short, urgent chapters told from a few key perspectives. . . . As the story spins toward its inexorable conclusion, only the reader ascertains what is happening—a sinking realization that rattles the psyche and interferes with sleep. I read the concluding sections with increasing horror; the ending, twisting in the author’s assured hands like a Rubik’s Cube, is at once predictable and harrowing. Somehow, it resolved nothing and left me shaken. I believed this could happen—I believed all of it—and the only thing more terrifying than that is the possibility of another Dan Chaon novel. I will be nervously looking forward to it.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The scariest novel of the year . . . ingenious . . . By now we should all be on guard against Dan Chaon, but there’s just no effective defense against this cunning writer. The author of three novels and three collections of short stories, he draws on our sympathies even while pricking our anxieties. Before beginning his exceptionally unnerving new book, go ahead and lock the door, but it won’t help. You’ll still be stuck inside yourself, which for Chaon is the most precarious place to be. . . . There’s something irresistibly creepy about this story, which stems from the thrill of venturing into illicit places of the mind. . . . Chaon’s novel walks along a garrote stretched taut between Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock. By the time we realize what’s happening, we’ve gone too far to turn back. We can only inch forward into the darkness, bracing for what might come next.”—The Washington Post
“Powerful . . . Chaon is one of America’s best and most dependable writers, and in the end, Ill Will is a ruthlessly ‘realistic’ piece of fiction about the unrealistic beliefs people entertain about their world.”—Los Angeles Times
“Spanning more than thirty years, this intriguing novel about a tightly wired criminal psychologist with a murky past has the tension of a thriller plus the emotional release of justice finally served.”—O: The Oprah Magazine