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 . . .:
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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