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This twisty thriller comes with an unusual premise that hooked me from the start: it’s set in an alternate world where once people hit adulthood, their ability to make new memories is drastically reduced, resulting in a stratified society where Monos, who can remember only one day prior to today, are second-class citizens to Duos, who can remember the past two days.

If you’re wondering how a murder mystery can possibly work under those conditions, well, I was skeptical too, but for the most part Yap pulls it off. Characters are dependent on their iDiaries (Apple and Steve Jobs are called out by name), which are cell phone-like devices on which they record each day’s events for review later on. Of course, you can see the problem with  a system like this--whatever a person chooses to write in their iDiary becomes fact for them in one or two days’ time, regardless of omissions or falsehoods. Hence the detective in the novel always tries his best to solve cases within a single day (which is probably the part I had the toughest time suspending my disbelief about).

Claire and Mark are a rare “mixed” marriage--she’s a Mono, he’s a Duo. A woman’s body is found in the river near their house, and the detective shows up to interview Mark. This stirs up all kinds of trouble, in their private and public lives. Mark is a famous novelist and aspiring politician, and any whiff of scandal could taint his name forever. If he was involved with another woman, let alone implicated in her death, Claire, needless to say, has questions.

I like mysteries and  thrillers, but as they can start to all feel the same to me, I’m always looking for ones with a little something extra. The memory-challenged world Yap has created felt fresh, and couldn’t have been easy to execute. If I rated this book using the Olympic gymnastics scoring system, I would rate it very high for starting difficulty and add moderate style points, with a deduction for a slight loss of form in the air. (Tortured metaphor? Perhaps. But I like it! I think I might start rating all books like gymnastic routines. How did I not see before that books and gymnastics are basically the same thing?!)

Find it at your library!

I don’t think I’ve ever been simultaneously so repulsed and so compelled to keep reading.

Ill Will starts out in what seems a very familiar way if you read a lot of thrillers, but the deeper you dive into psychologist Dustin Tillman’s mind, the more you realize you’re not in recognizable territory after all. Neat and tidy answers, characters who are easily classifiable as strictly good or bad--you won’t find any of that here.

When Dustin was a kid, his parents and aunt and uncle were murdered. His older brother Rusty was convicted of the crimes, in part due to Dustin’s testimony. Now, years later, Dustin is a psychologist with a wife and two nearly grown sons, and Rusty has been exonerated and released from jail. Which begs the obvious question: if Rusty didn’t kill their parents, who did?

You’d think that question would be at the forefront of Dustin’s mind, but that’s assuming Dustin’s mind is normal, and it becomes increasingly clear that that’s not the case. Dustin avoids thinking about his childhood at all costs, instead obsessing with his patient-turned-friend Aqil about a spate of recent drownings in the area and trying to prove they’re the work of a serial killer. Being privy to Dustin’s carefully curated thoughts is one of the most uncomfortably claustrophobic experiences I’ve had in a while. Just what is he capable of? Does he even know himself?

If I had to describe this book in two words, they would be “deeply unsettling.” But what can I say--despite that, I couldn’t seem to stop reading.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I need a shower.

With regards to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the review copy. On sale now!