Eyes Wide Open by Andrew Gross is a book full of murder, mystery and suspense, but it does not read like a typical murder-mystery. To be honest, I am not sure exactly which genre this novel really falls into. The book concentrates on the mysterious and tragic death of Dr. Jay Erlich’s troubled nephew Evan and all of the bizarre unfolding of events immediately following the discovery of his body at the bottom of a cliff. Dr. Erlich decides to stay and help Evan’s parents – his schizophrenic brother Charlie and his wife Gabby – and to try and uncover what was really behind the death of their son. What they discover is astonishing and also comes with a very heavy price.
Evan was troubled, like his father, but the circumstances surrounding his death make the ruled cause of death, suicide, appear a bit suspicious. The signs seem to point to murder instead. After uncovering a few more details and learning of a few unresolved murders, Jay discovers that much of what happened to Evan is tied to his brother’s involvement back in the 1960’s with cult leader Russell Houvnanian.
Houvnanian’s character and the situations surrounding him – his followers, abandoned ranch living, free love, drugs, and murder – mirror those of Charles Manson and his family. As a result of this, I feel that I spent more time paying attention to how similar the two were and drawing these comparisons rather than paying attention to the actual story. There are parts of Eyes Wide Open that move very quickly, such as the action near the end and the discovery of what actually happened to Evan, but there are also a lot of parts that drag on and on. Dr. Erlich annoyed me as a character and I felt that he spent too much time trying to be a hero rather than actually being one. I will say however, that the open ended finish to the story was quite intriguing and was very nicely done.
Andrew Gross is a good writer who has strong dialogue skills and an easy way with words, but I had a hard time remaining interested in the story. I never felt a level of compassion with any of the characters other than Gabby and I had a hard time maintaining interest in the action, or lack thereof that was unfolding throughout the story.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Meryl L. Moss Media Relations. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.