Satanic rituals (alleged), a kid who fancies himself a psychic vampire named Amy, some light incest, and a mysterious mass murder await you within the pages of this masterfully layered and executed novel of perception, deception and the soul-rending anguish only the young and lost can experience. In short, HBO needs to get in touch with Dan Chaon right away and spin this into a limited one-season series if they are smart. I’ll take a modest 5% for instilling them with the idea.

The story revolves primarily around Rusty and Dustin. Dustin is a psychologist who grew up with two older sisters and his adopted brother, Rusty, who may or may not have killed his own parents before moving on to kill Dustin’s when they were kids. As a successful adult with a practice and a heroin-addicted son, Dustin soon catches wind of a mysterious string of drowned young white males and goes on an amateur investigation with one of his patients. To say more, would do a disservice to the tapestry of tragedy Chaon has carefully crafted. Suffice to say it is one heck of a dark, fun ride.

Told from several points of view, Ill Will also employs some cool touches to help make the narrative feel more immersive and authentic as it jumps from the past to the present. There are simulated text conversations (which are some of the most chilling moments) and a plenty of sentences and thoughts that are interrupted completely and abandoned for the next thought in line. Much like conversation and thought in the real world.

This is my favorite novel of 2017 thus far. With a bullet. I don’t often read novels more than once but this dark treasure is definitely going to be back on the top of my pile in a few weeks for a re-read. When I finished the novel I was at once stunned, scared, haunted and above all impressed with the tale Chaon wove here. Some readers may be put off by the lack of a clean ending, but I was delighted by the respect the novel has for the reader. To me, the novel echoed reality. We don’t always get the answers we seek or the absolute truth. Rather, we sometimes discover something much more terrifying – the fact that there is no such thing as the absolute truth.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I finished reading this novel a month ago and I still catch myself thinking about it. It’s that rare book that practically jumps up and begs to be swung open again after you read the last page. It may not be for everyone but if you’re a fan of Chaon’s work and enjoy a well-crafted mystery with plenty of room for interpretation, you will have a great time with this book. Very highly recommended.

Ruminations

  • Why rabbits? Do Satanists catch them in the wild or just hit up the nearest pet shop? Poor little guys.
  • I’d like to think I would notice my son’s heroin addiction pretty quickly, no matter how caught up in my work I get. Dustin must be locked in when he’s got something on his mind not to notice.
  • Did I mention this absolutely needs to be made into a movie or series? Fingers crossed.

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