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Ill Will

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  8,907 ratings  ·  1,707 reviews
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,” Dustin Tillman likes to say. It’s one of the little mantras he shares with his patients, and it’s mea
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Ballantine Books
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Average rating 3.36  · 
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 ·  8,907 ratings  ·  1,707 reviews

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Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
Out today. Felt it a good idea to renew my warnings!

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Dan Chaon, and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In my first attempt to decipher the writing (ramblings?) of Dan Chaon, I was left with a bitter taste I am unable to mask. This novel, set in both the early 1980s and 2012-14 tells of two sets of unsolved murders, which sounds interesting eno
Jaidee (on roadtrip-only updating reading progress
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those that think they know about darkness
Recommended to Jaidee (on roadtrip-only updating reading progress by: the prince of the night
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "fuck, Fuck, FucK, Triple FUCK" stars !!!

7th Favorite Read of 2017 (tie)

This is one of the best noir psychological thrillers that I have ever read !!

Mr. Chaon wrote a novel that was nuanced, psychologically informed, dark and genius but written in a stylized clipped vernacular that makes it accessible to most. He layered grief, trauma, ritualized violence, drug addiction, family dysfunction, neurosis, psychosis, degrees of evil, dissociation, boundary violations and fragmentation in the da
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, mystery
2.5 stars

I have one word for this book: FRUSTRATING!!!!

I finished this 2 days ago, and the frustration is still strong, probably due to the fact that I still have so many unanswered questions.

The problem wasn't with the storyline, as that held my interest. 2 different murder plots-one taking place in present time, and one that took place back in the 1980's. I was really intrigued with how the past and the present were going to collide.
I think the author did a great job of creating memorable ch
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

4.5 Stars

We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves.

Ill Will is infused with a dark aura, an atmosphere of hazy confusion, a sense of an impending tragedy. Dread, a mysterious presence that is woven throughout this novel, like an insidious fog creeping under the doorway, into the home and the lives of those inside. So subtle, at first, that they never notice how much has changed, that they are no longer seeing things as they are, or maybe even as they were.

Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I devoured "Ill Will." It has to be among the smartest, saddest, most haunting page-turners I've ever read. ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is, in turn, annoying, horrifying, eye-rollingly annoying, engaging and, finally, frustrating. You decide.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars rounded up to 4. One of my favorite novels is Await Your Reply by this same author. My rating only reflects that this one suffers by comparison...not that it wasn't a well-written and absorbing story. ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Robin by: Perry
Wading through murky, dark waters of memory

Okay, I've been known to whinge about how tough it is to find a good thriller. I complain that the plot eventually sags despite a running start, the characters are wooden, the ending disappoints in a myriad of ways. Well I'm delighted to say that THIS book nails on the head just what I look for in a literary thriller: top notch writing, fully drawn characters, atmosphere, suspense, intelligent themes, a compelling story... this has it all.

It's a tr
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Two unsolved murders. Both connected to psychologist Dustin Tillman. One in the 80's. Dustin's parents, aunt and uncle all murdered, blamed on Dustin's teenage adopted brother Russell amidst the satanic cult hysteria now being released from prison 29 years later due to an overturned conviction thanks to DNA analysis. The other involves a present day serial killer theory made by one of Dustin's patients, Aqil. He sees a connection in drunk college boy drownings drawing Dustin down the rabbit hole ...more
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
This book was so different than what I was expecting. Given the premise I probably should've known better.

Rusty has just been exonerated (through DNA) from prison after having served 30 years for allegedly murdering his adopted parents. He had already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, mostly based on the accusations from his adopted brother and cousin.

If you remember, back in the 80s the media sensationalized and overly dramatized accusations of satanism, rituals and cul
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley, mystery
Ill Will's protagonist, Dustin Tillman, is - in my eyes - the cliché of a middle-aged psychologist. A married man and father of two sons, who has bigger issues than many of his clients, who lives in denial and doesn't see the wood for the trees. Probably not surprising, when you consider that Dustin's childhood was marked by the violent deaths of his parents and his aunt and uncle. A crime for which his adopted brother, Rusty, was subsequently sentenced. Now, new evidence has exonerated Rusty, a ...more
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Unique, dark, suspenseful psychological thriller that cycles back and forth in time focusing on 2 separate sets of murders. In the 1970s, Dustin’s parents and aunt and uncle were brutally murdered while he and his cousins slept in a trailer in the driveway. It was his and his cousin, Kate’s, testimony that landed Dustin’s foster brother, Randy in prison. As a result of this traumatic event, Dustin became interested in studying the psychology of Satanic cults and violence expressed through them. ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017, netgalley
For all my reviews, visit my blog at
My Review

Ill Will by Dan Chaon is about a string of murders of young college-aged men and another murder that occurred in 1983. The 1983 murder is when the main character, Dustin Tillman’s parents and aunt/uncle die. Dustin’s adopted brother, Rusty, was accused of the murders and spent about 30 years in prison. Rusty was eventually released from prison through the help of the Innocence Project. Dustin and his cousin, Ka

Ron Charles
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spooky-creatures
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.

“Ill Will” revolves around Dustin Tillman, a 41-year-old psy
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was confusing at times, misleading at times, all the characters are unreliable for various reasons, but what Dan Chaon succeeds in is making the reader feel unsettled AND YET I couldn't stop reading it. Literally 100 page chunks at a time. So I think I liked it? One character I knew wasn't a good person but I'm still torn about the rest.

And I only read this because it was listed for summer reading by the Tournament of Books people, and I am a lemming. And I had to request it twice from
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars for this dark, gritty, literary thriller. I absolutely gobbled up these 460 pages.
switterbug (Betsey)
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Chaon is the master of circumspect dread, icy humor, and cold menace, keeping the reader off-kilter through much of the story. There was more overhanging doom in this book than in AWAIT YOUR REPLY, perhaps because it was denser and longer. Moreover, the frigid temperatures added to the bleak storyline. And bleak it is, saturated with ill will, from the first line to the last. Don’t expect Chaon to give you hope; this is a novel of evil and despair. There were times I just wanted to escape from t ...more
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-release
I don’t think I’ve ever been simultaneously so repulsed and so compelled to keep reading.

Ill Will starts out in what seems a very familiar way if you read a lot of thrillers, but the deeper you dive into psychologist Dustin Tillman’s mind, the more you realize you’re not in recognizable territory after all. Neat and tidy answers, characters who are easily classifiable as strictly good or bad--you won’t find any of that here.

When Dustin was a kid, his parents and aunt and uncle were murdered. His
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 Stars. My only complaint is that it was too long but otherwise, a very complex and chilling story.
Jessica Sullivan
This book is everything I want in a thriller: smart, literary, DARK, and creepy. Throw in a plot centered around the satanic ritual abuse hysteria from the 80s and the fallibility of human memory and I'm completely sold.

Dustin Tillman's adopted brother Rusty is about to be released from prison—finally exonerated 30 years later for the murder of Dustin's parents, aunt and uncle. Dustin testified against Rusty in the trial when he was a young boy, believing him to have been connected to a sinister
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 stars--I really liked it. Reader warning: this is a dark novel full of disturbing things--drug use, serial murder, child abuse, some minor animal violence, etc.

I'm going to overuse the word dark in this review, because it fits the book so well: Dark characters, dark plot, dark world. I was utterly fascinated by the characters--unlikeable and self-destructive as they were. And as someone who lived through the ridiculous "satanic ritual abuse" scare in the '80s, I found the subject matter also i
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-netgalley
I received this ARC from in exchange for a review.

Two separate threads of horrendous murders, Dustin's family is viciously murdered and his adopted brother Rusty is jailed and does 25 years but then he is acquitted. In present time, Dustin is a psychologist and gets involved in his patients theory about a serial murderer.

This is the first time I have read this author. The writing just felt too messy and disjointed, sentences would abruptly end and the thought wouldn't be picked up
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Do you like dark and gritty suspense novels that threaten to make even the strongest of constitutions a little faint? How would you feel if satanic cults were blamed to be involved as one disturbed ward of the system is witnessed killing his foster parents? What if the witnesses were young teens, traumatized and unsure of what they witnessed? Were they having a mass episode of hysteria? Were they truly watching a satanic ritual in progress or were they so confused, they were unable to differenti ...more
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Dustin is a psychologist who struggles with his own past. His mother, father, aunt and uncle were all killed one summer when he was a young boy. His adopted brother, Rusty, was arrested for the crime and has spent 30 years in prison but is now being released based on new DNA results. Dustin had testified against Rusty at his trial telling of a satanic cult ritual. To complicate things further for Dustin, his wife, Jill, has cancer, his youngest son, Aaron, is becoming a drug addict and his oldes ...more
Disclaimer: This ARC copy was sent to me by the publisher, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, via NetGalley for an honest review.

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
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
What you think you know...What you think you remember....what if it was wrong?

The book opens as Dustin, a Psychologist in Cleveland, receives the news from his cousin, Kate that his adoptive brother, Rusty had recently been exonerated through DNA evidence after serving 30 years for a crime he did not commit. The Crime - killing he and Dustin's parents, aunt and uncle. The trial that sent him to prison symbolized the 1980's obsession with satanic worship. Rusty was sentenced to 30 years primarily
L.S. Popovich
I've been a fan of Chaon's short stories for a few years. Eschewing stylistic postures, he depicts startling epiphanies amid the psychological struggles and mundane griefs of his characters. This novel, labeled and marketed as a thriller from all appearances, marks a definite departure for him.

I will not say that I did not enjoy it. It contained moments of startling clarity. But the necessarily 'watered-down', or 'dumbed-down' if you will, narration reminded me at times of pulp murder mystery fi
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, netgalley, bookriot
Dustin Tillman is a modern day psychologist and part time hypnotist. He's happily married with two sons and living a pretty good life, when his adopted brother gets released from prison. The thing is, Rusty was in prison for killing Dustin's parents. Did Rusty really commit these crimes? Another story line is weaved through this novel. It seems that a serial killer is on the loose, college guys go missing, and are found on patterned days drowned in the river. Dustin and Aqil (one of his patients ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Dan Chaon's new book, Ill Will, is about two unsolved crimes, one in the present day and one from the past. These threads are tied together by the main character, Dustin Tillman, a forty-one-year-old psychologist with a small practice in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, whose speciality is hypnosis therapy.

Dustin is married with two teen-aged sons and, up-to-now, has been satisfied with his life. But in April, 2012, he realizes he is feeling a vague anxiety: "his brain seemed murky with circling unfocu
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Dan Chaon is the author of Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon’s fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Best Ame ...more

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“I realized that I had the choice. I could give this moment a meaning, or I could choose to ignore it. It just depended on the kind of story I wanted to tell myself.” 7 likes
“People can find patterns in all kinds of random events. It's called apophenia. It's the tendency we humans have to find meaning in disconnected information.” 3 likes
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