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ILL WILL (Ballentine Books)
Have you ever thought to yourself, “did that really happen, or did I just imagine that to be true?” In Ill Will Dan Chaon explores two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—both linked by one man’s memory and self-deception. A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he learns that his adopted brother, Rusty who received a life sentence for murdering Dustin’s parents, aunt and uncle, is being released from prison after thirty years. Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients gets him deeply engaged in a string of drowning deaths involving drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses talk of a serial killer as paranoid thinking, but as he gets wrapped up in their amateur investigation, he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.
Chaon is fascinated by urban legends and conspiracy theories. He writes, “The interesting thing for me was not knowing what was going to happen in this book. The characters became more slippery as I got to know them. The blanket of paranoia over the book extended to the whole writing process and these characters began to unnerve me.”
Ill Will is a page-turning thriller about the failures of memory, the collapse of family and the perils of self-deception.
Praise for Ill Will
“For this exceptional and emotionally wrenching novel, Chaon plants the seeds of new manias into the hard, unforgiving ground that will be familiar to his readers… With impressive skill, across multiple narratives that twine, fracture, and rest, Chaon expertly realizes his singular vision of American Dread.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A dark genre-bending thriller . . . Chaon has mastered multiple psychologically complex and often fearsome characters. A shadowy narrative that's carried well by the author's command and insight.”–Kirkus (starred review)
“Lauded literary author Chaon tackles the thriller genre, with this tale of a psychologist whose adopted brother is released from prison. Ideally, this will be the rare read that is all pleasure, no guilt.”—New York Magazine, “The Anticipation Index”
“Chaon has created another of those twilight realms of which he is an indisputable master. The book’s characters plumb the depths of deception and surpass all established measures of instability and dysfunction. . . . If the definition of eeriness is indeed ‘strange, suspicious, and unnatural,’ the definers of the genre (Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Shirley Jackson, Peter Straub, etc.) have a worthy heir in Dan Chaon.”–Booklist
“Dan Chaon was already a master of the short story well before he wrote his tense and delightfully twisted thriller, Await Your Reply. Ill Will finds Chaon back in thriller territory, with an even more propulsive narrative. It’s one of those books that looks big and heavy, but with pacing so tight it will likely only take a couple of days to read.”–Vulture, “25 of the Most Anticipated Book Releases for 2017”
Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of Stay Awake, Await Your Reply, You Remind Me of Me, Fitting Ends, and Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Chaon’s short stories have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon teaches creative writing at Oberlin College.
Photo by Ulf Andersen