An unnerving thriller that will stick with you for weeks

'Ill Will' by Dan Chaon
'Ill Will' by Dan Chaon
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke with Michael Herrmann, the owner of Gibson's Bookstore in Concord, N.H.

Herrmann finished reading Dan Chaon's novel, "Ill Will," six weeks ago, but he hasn't stopped thinking about it.

"I couldn't even pick up another book for two or three weeks, just because I was still working out what had happened in this book in my head," he said. "It was that impactful as a psychological novel for me."

The book follows Dustin Tillman, a psychologist in the Ohio suburbs whose parents were brutally murdered when he was only 13.

When the story opens, Herrmann said, it's chaos. There's talk of a serial killer on the loose, preying on male college students. Then Tillman finds out that his half-brother, who had been convicted of killing their parents, has just been released from prison after several decades due to DNA evidence. The story unfolds from there.

"It's a literary novel and it's a horror novel at the same time," Herrmann said. "It's very ambitious. It has a few narratives that stretch across three decades. ... There's half a dozen main characters. There's two unsolved killing sprees. He writes in first, second and third person, he writes in past and present tense. ... You don't even notice it really, because the narrative just carries you along."

The book toys with identity, memory and the binding power of family.

"After I finished this book, I turned to my wife and said: 'I'm a good parent, right?'" Herrmann remembered. "This book really just makes me question everything."

Ill Will

Ill Will

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