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Amazon.com – Ill Will: A Novel by Dan Chaon
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Disclaimer: This ARC copy was sent to me by the publisher, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, via NetGalley for an honest review.
Genre: Adult/Mature Adult/Mystery/Thriller
Plot: “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.
Opinion: WHEW! What a whirlwind that story was! After becoming introduced to The Girl on the Train, I have been in a frenzy trying to find similar books. I came across Ill Will on Netgalley and HAD to give it a go. Let me tell you readers, I have so many STRONG and INSANE emotions rushing through me right now…I barely know where to start! This book is like a bad mushroom trip that feels WAY too real.
Thirty years ago, Dustin and his cousins woke up to find their parents brutally murdered in their home. Already flushed with loss at a young age, a life sentence is handed down on Dustin’s adopted brother Rusty who is blamed for the crimes. Now years later with children of his own, Dustin works as a psychologist in Cleveland. Soon a call from Dustin’s cousin brings panic into his life, as he is told that Rusty’s sentence has been thrown out and he is being released. Now Dustin begins to reflect back on the night that changed his life forever, and whether he and his cousins were right about testifying against Rusty and blaming him for the murders. All the while, a staggering number of male college students being found dead is making headlines. Though the police call the strange occurrences “accidental drownings”, Dustin’s new patient feels otherwise and suspects foul play. Could there be a link to this madness, or is Dustin slowly falling down a rabbit hole?
This is a truly interesting and dark story. There are tons of misleading twists and shocking occurrences, and the characters are truly gritty. Dustin is our main character and the reader follows him as he relives moments from his past, while also dealing with his present. One day Dustin gets a call from his cousin who tells him that Rusty, his adopted brother and the person who took the fall for the murders, is being released from prison. He is told that new DNA results were discovered which proves that Rusty couldn’t have murdered his new family. This brings a panic into Dustin’s life because now he is unsure if Rusty was the culprit of the crime, or if he was just blamed because of the things he had done in his past.
As Dustin reflects on his past growing up with Rusty, I was…how should I say this…COMPLETELY f***ing disturbed. There is some SERIOUSLY dark and grimy things that go on between these boys. Rusty can be described as a tough and hardheaded boy at an early age, and grows into a metal loving hooligan that likes talking about satanic rituals and even goes as far as sacrificing small rabbits. Dustin is a young an impressionable boy, and sees Rusty as his knight in shining armor. He proves to be a more than gullible child, and will allow his mind to be overturned by suggestions and hints by his older cousins and Rusty. In each flashback that these characters take the reader in, we are given glimpses of each characters flaws as a child and reasons why they could or couldn’t have been the ones to murder their family.
Another huge part of this story is Dustin and his patient Aqil. Aqil is a former police officer who has more than an obsessive and compulsive personality. He becomes fascinated by the mass amounts of local drownings of college males, and brings it upon himself to start investigating. As Aqil attends sessions with Dustin, Dustin starts to get wrapped up in the ideas and theories that Aqil presents him. Soon he finds himself spending all of his time with Aqil and latched onto the idea that there is a murderer on the loose killing these boys. The end result for these murders is truly…SHOCKING. I was so blindsided when this portion of the story was SOMEWHAT answered. Yes, in this book you will find that the author likes to leave you guessing.
For me though, I think the ending is where this story really shines. At first I wasn’t too keen on the fact that the ending didn’t completely tie everything together. I ended the book and thought to myself WAIT, what happened?? As it has now been a few days since I have finished the book, I have a different feeling towards the ending. I actually enjoy the fact of where the author took it, because there are so many actual cases where things end up in that fashion. I think I have a pretty decent idea of what could have happened, and I think you guys will too if you give this read a go. But honestly, the best part is knowing that you have no idea what actually happened. So touché Dan Chaon, touché. All in all, I am only giving this 3 stars because this book took me a LONG time to get through and because I was rather uncomfortable for most of the read. I prefer a thriller that THRILLS me, not a story that makes my skin crawl and forces me to put it down. It is an interesting story, but I could have done without all the in-depth sexual scenes.
2 thoughts on “Book Review: Ill Will by Dan Chaon”
I felt rather dirty after reading it!
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Omg the same!!! I put it down SO many times because I just felt yucky!
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