Sunday, September 16, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open, by Andrew Gross.

I caught exactly what that meant. Evan hadn't been on his meds.

That explained how he had managed to climb all the way up there. How he still would have had the urge to follow through with it.

It pretty much explained everything.

"So how the hell did he manage to find his way all the way up there?" I asked.

"I don't know." He sighed. "But I do know how the death certificate is going to read. Death by suicide." He reopened the door and looked at me before he headed back in. "What the hell else would the kid be doing up there in the first place?"

I have never read any of Andrew Gross's novels before this one, and I have to admit that at the beginning of it I was not impressed; the dialogue was super cheesy and I was metaphorically rolling my eyes throughout it. In the novel, Jay Erlich's nephew, Evan, kills himself by jumping off a rock into the waters below - or so we think. In a scene where Jay is talking to Gabriella, his brother Charlie's wife, the dialogue says:

Evan was their only child. He had always been troubled; he'd been diagnosed as bipolar as well. Out of school. Not working. In and out of trouble with the law. But dead? How?

"He jumped off the rock. In Morro Bay." Then she choked back a sob, any attempt at control completely unraveling. "Evan is gone, Jay. He killed himself. My son is no more."

After reading that, I was thinking that this novel was going to be hard to get through (very soap opera-ish). Then, however, something interesting happened: the cheesy dialogue became less and less, and a good story started to shine through. By the time I reached the end of the novel, I had to admit that the story was good, and actually worth reading.

The story is about how Jay, a doctor, flies to California to be with his brother, whom he isn't close with, and his brother's wife, after Evan commits suicide. Even though Evan was depressed and had "erratic behavior," Jay doesn't believe it was suicide after a few things don't add up. Soon, with the help of a police officer, he finds out more about his brother's history with the killer Russell Houvnanian, leader of a cult who mass-murdered many people thirty years ago, and how Russell has never forgotten Charlie's part in him going to jail. Jay must put together the pieces before more people get hurt, and find out exactly what happened to Evan: whether it was indeed suicide or whether he was murdered.

The characters were all good in this novel, and once the "soap opera-esque" dialogue stopped I ended up liking the book a lot. The novel was actually based on "two real life experiences - the loss of his nephew and a chance encounter years ago with the nation's most notorious cult-killer," Charles Manson - and because Gross is writing about what he knows, the novel succeeds in luring its audience in to the story.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions listed here, however, are my own.


  1. Liz, I recently read "Reckless" by Gross. Not sure I'd highly recommend it, would probably give it 2.5 stars.

    1. I had not read anything by him before, but there was a sample at the end of one of his new books and that one did look good - I put a hold on it at my local library.


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