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Books Similar to American Psycho

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Ill Will by Dan Chaon

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Synopsis of Ill Will by Dan Chaon


There's this psychologist- Dustin, who is living a pretty ordinary life in the suburbs of Cleveland. He's got this saying he tells his patients, something about how we all create stories about ourselves. But the thing is- what if those stories are just a bunch of lies?


Then, he finds out his adopted brother- Rusty, is getting out of prison. Rusty was convicted of murdering Dustin's family back in the '80s, in the midst of all that satanic craziness. But new evidence has come to light, and Rusty is walking free. To make it worse- Dustin testified against Rusty those years ago.


At the same time, one of Dustin's patients, a former cop, is convinced there's a serial killer targeting college kids. It sounds like a conspiracy theory at first, but the more Dustin digs into it, the more he starts to believe there might be something to it. He gets way too involved, crossing all sorts of ethical lines as a therapist, and even putting his own family at risk.


A Brief Review of Ill Will By Dan Chaon


Dan Chaon is the king of unsettling vibes. He'll have you on edge throughout most of this book, with his quiet menace and bone-chilling suspense. Honestly, this book was even more unsettling than Await Your Reply, and that's saying something. Maybe it's because it's longer and more dense, or maybe it's the constant reminder of freezing temperatures adding to the overall bleakness.


And boy, is this book bleak. It's soaked in ill will from start to finish. Don't expect any warm fuzzies from Chaon; this is a story about evil and despair, pure and simple. There were times I wanted to just shut the book and escape into something a little less intense, but Chaon kept pulling me back in with his relentless, eerie terror.


Our main character, Dustin Tillman, is a middle-aged psychologist in Cleveland who's got his own share of baggage- serious childhood trauma from his adopted brother, Rusty. Rusty was convicted of killing Dustin's family. Now, after thirty years, Rusty's getting out of prison due to some new DNA evidence. Dustin is understandably terrified about what might happen.


Meanwhile, Dustin's patient, a former cop, drags him into an unofficial investigation of a series of drownings involving college guys. The cop thinks there's a serial killer at work, and Dustin, who once studied satanic cults, starts to get drawn in.


To top it all off, Dustin's struggling as a single dad to his two teenage sons. He's trying to be a better father, but he keeps getting distracted by this murder investigation, even roping his son into it- what a complete mess.


Chaon definitely achieved what he set out to do. This book is tense and suspenseful, even if it could have been trimmed down a bit. And the ending, well, it felt a little cheesy to me. I won't spoil it, but let's just say it took a turn I wasn't expecting.


But overall, I was hooked. Chaon's writing is polished and deliberately disjointed, with alternating timelines and a moody atmosphere. He leaves just enough gaps in the story to keep you guessing and on edge. It's the perfect read for a cold, dark night when you're in the mood for a good scare.



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