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Ill Will

A Novel
By: Dan Chaon
Length: 14 hrs and 56 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
3.5 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

Non-member price: $50.78

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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    3 out of 5 stars

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.

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  • cristina
  • 23-03-2017

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.

25 of 25 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • justin day
  • 17-03-2017

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.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • W Perry Hall
  • 18-02-2018

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Linda
  • 23-07-2017

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 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Xero Hax
  • 02-07-2017

No resolution.

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

Really good writing, too.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • M. Kramer
  • 01-04-2017

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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  • Will
  • 13-09-2019

kinda Disappointed.

Took a chance, mainly because two of my favorite narrators, were apart of what became a great narrated AB, however; the story was just decent, and you really had to pay attention because of the flashbacks, and multiple narrators, or you would get lost, and the ending was very anticlimactic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • LucyScofield
  • 06-08-2018

A GREAT STORY VIVIDLY PERFORMED

Dan Chaon writes without flinching of the consequences of our cruelties, both intentional and casual, to one another. This story, which is performed with perfect pitch, will reverberate and endure in your mind.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Gerry Levine
  • 13-05-2018

What we don’t know we create

Disturbing tale told by degraded souls of a blended family each of whom is in search of the elusive details of their lives... and deaths. Eerie, intense, at times terrifying reminding us we really know much less about people than we want to believe. The readings and voices draw out the story very effectively.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan Tunis
  • 17-04-2018

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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  • joanjava
  • 26-03-2017

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

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  • avidreader
  • 30-12-2018

We need to talk about Dustin

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Scot Dutch
  • 09-09-2019

Genius

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