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March 9, 2017 / Leslie

Book Review: Ill Will by Dan Chaon

A Rapid Review

Creepy but oh so compelling . . .

Publisher: Ballantine Books | PRH Audio | March 2017
Format: 480 pages | Audio 15 hours | Rating: 5 stars
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate – Difficult

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.

What’s it about . . .
Dustin Tillman, a psychologist in his 40s, is haunted by the murder of his parents, aunt, and uncle in the 1980s. Convinced his step-brother Rusty, a boy with an already troubled past, committed the murders, Dustin and his cousin testify that Rusty was involved with satanic cults. Even without physical evidence, their testimony was enough to convict him of the murders. Thirty years later, with the help of The Innocence Project and DNA analysis, Rusty is exonerated and released from jail.

Recently, Dustin has lost his wife to cancer and is probably not thinking clearly when he befriends a patient and crosses a professional boundary to help him investigate a serial killer who preys on local college boys. Meanwhile, Rusty, newly released from prison, has made contact with Dustin’s son, who is dealing with drug abuse problems and the recent death of his best friend.

What did I think . . .
I enjoyed this immensely; however, this is not a book for everyone. Besides being a rather dark story, it is also creepy and, at times, scary. Plus it’s not the easiest book to read or listen to. Using three narrators, shifting points of view, two time lines that span three decades, and a unique writing style makes this novel, at times, challenging. But it was so worth it!

The story is multi-layered and complex, but also a compelling mystery. It isn’t until the very last section that everything comes together. And at that point I asked myself why I didn’t see it coming! If you like Stephen King style creepiness or Hitchcockian suspense, you will probably enjoy this unique novel. This is already one of my 2017 favorites.

Audio production . . .
I began by listening to the audiobook, but soon switched to print until I became oriented. There was no problem in the performance of the narrators, which includes Ari Fliakos, Edoardo Ballerini, and Michael Crouch, who did a superb job.

I have an easier time keeping frequent time shifts straight in my mind when I read, rather than hear, the dates. Plus points of view were often shifting. Once I became familiar with the many characters and the author’s style, it became easier to listen. It was also not easy to multi-task while doing anything distracting as the story requires a bit of concentration. Unless one listens to a lot of audio, I recommend going with the print. I listen to a lot of audio, but still needed to keep the book nearby to re-read some passages for clarification.

Audio Sample . . .:

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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Leave a Comment
  1. Diane / Mar 9 2017 7:36 pm

    I’m reading this now 1/3 through and enjoying it! Glad the audio was well done.


    • Leslie / Mar 10 2017 10:34 am

      I thought you might like it. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me.


  2. Techeditor / Mar 10 2017 10:20 am

    I am reading this right now, more than halfway through. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I finish, but so far I could not disagree with you more. This is not Stephen King style at all! It is confusing because it skips around different timelines and also because it is hard to tell if this psychologist is mentally if capacitated. And if he is mentally it get bad sedated, was he always or just since his wife died?

    This book is so difficult to read, I don’t know how I am going to be able to finish it. This book is so confusing and leaves you with so many questions that you really need to read this with a group so that you can discuss it. I am reading The book by myself and can only look at reviews other people have written to try to figure it out.


    • Techeditor / Mar 10 2017 10:21 am



    • Leslie / Mar 10 2017 10:34 am

      You are not alone … I noticed more than a few reviewers felt that way. I like books that are different, and I especially like the psychological genre. Maybe I’m giving this one a little more leeway because of that. And I just liked the story.

      I was referring to Stephen King type creepy, not his writing style. I agree, at times it was difficult to read, I switched back and forth between print and audio. It made the parts with the columns easier to understand. I don’t understand why it was done with columns as it really didn’t add anything. The book does leave questions unanswered, but not so many that I can’t fill-in-the-blanks.


      • Techeditor / Mar 10 2017 5:55 pm

        I like the psychological genre very much, just not this one. I guess I didn’t like the story because the psychologist was so mentally unstable. His gallivanting around with his patient was ridiculous.


  3. Lloyd Russell / Mar 14 2017 12:44 am

    Definitely can’t ignore a 5/5!


  4. Marie / Apr 6 2017 6:50 pm

    I love that you gave this book 5/5 stars. This is definitely a book I’ve enjoyed even more upon reflection back on it. It is so unique, so disorienting, so dark, so deep. I also totally get why some people hated it.


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