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Eyes Wide Open Hardcover – July 12, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 240 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Lisa Gardner Interviews Andrew Gross

New York Times bestselling crime novelist Lisa Gardner began her career in food service, but after catching her hair on fire numerous times, she took the hint and focused on writing instead. A self-described research junkie, she has parlayed her interest in police procedure, cutting edge forensics and twisted plots into a streak of eleven bestselling suspense novels, including her most recent release, Love You More

Lisa Gardner: First, the question I’ve always wanted to ask another author: Where do you get your ideas?

Andrew Gross: It's just that if I told you I’d have to kill you Lisa, and you're so nice… Actually, as we both know, that process varies, and every author has his or her own path. You just pray like hell they come when you need them!

For me, this is the hardest and most stressful hurdle in what I do. The writing comes easy! For my last three books, I took conspiratorial headlines from the news—Iraq War scandals; people who used 9/11 to disappear from their life; the Wall Street financial meltdown—and wrapped them around more local and personal stories: a harrowing home invasion gone tragically wrong or a wife who wakes up one day to find her dead husband wasn't at all the person she thought she knew. Stories that I thought could achieve the emotional resonance I strive for in my books.

Eyes Wide Open took shape from two real life events straight from my own past. One was the sad suicide of my young nephew, a troubled kid, who was found at the bottom of a landmark cliff in central California. The second was a chance encounter forty years ago with none other than, ahem, Charles Manson! You’ll have to read it to see how these stories link.

Blind Curve, the book I’m working on now, sprang from a crazy incident that happened to me last year while on my book tour. I was pulled out of my car for a minor traffic violation—an incident that escalated into my being thrown into cuffs and told I was going to jail. Except in my story, the hero doesn't get off as easily as I did.

As long as events like these keep happening to me, I’ll be in good shape!

LG: Your last novel, Reckless, was a “ripped from the headlines” sort of novel, whereas Eyes Wide Open draws from events in your life. What prompted you to pull from your personal experiences this time around, and how hard was that to write?

AG: It's much, much, much harder to write a story from your own life that affects real people, and some of them people you care for—especially those who have suffered tragedy, like me brother. On the other hand, drawing from personal experience makes for a much more enriching and rewarding story, one that is filled with the detail and resonance of real life. I wanted to write a poignant, personal testament to my nephew that was also a thriller, using a theme I seem to carry from book to book—a family hiding a secret past; in this case, revolving around teenage suicide, sons fighting against their fathers, the L.A. music scene in the ’60s, and an encounter with that Manson-like figure. Hopefully what came out is a chilling, rich, autobiographical, and satisfying tale filled with the kind of richness and family lore that you usually find in a memoir. While writing Eyes Wide Open from events in my own life was tough, and awkward—and you know you may not please everyone—to me, it became more rewarding in the end.

LG: OK, so you mentioned that as a child you had a passing encounter with Charles Manson, which helped inspire Eyes Wide Open. Say what?

AG: Okay. I go back and forth on this. Eyes Wide Open isn't a book about Manson, or even a Manson-like character, though a cultish figure is a chilling detail in the book. My dad moved out to L.A. in the ’60s and my older brother, a wayward spirit trying to become a musician, was out there as well, and, uh, took up residence on the Spahn Ranch, where Manson lived. At that time, Charlie was also trying to get his music produced. The two of them came up to my father's place one day and tried to sell him on anteing up for a demo. Manson was gaunt, quiet, creepy—and yes, he had those dark eyes. Though, at that time, Charlie Manson hadn't become the infamous “Charles Manson” yet! The scene eventually turned ugly—which I describe in the book—and they left, humiliated and angry. For years, my dad always insisted that the clan went up into the canyons that night looking to pay him back for what took place, but got lost in the L.A. hills and ended up at Sharon Tate’s. Truth was, by that time my brother was long gone and, of course, there were other reasons the Manson clan ended up at Sharon Tate’s house. But it makes a chilling scene!

LG: Having followed your novels since The Dark Tide, I’ve noticed that you’re drawn to stories involving complex family dynamics. What is it about this theme that resonates so strongly for you, and how has your own experience as a father influenced your writing?

AG: I don't like writing straight-up thrillers. I like writing about families hurled into crisis and danger—soccer moms and regular dads and husbands who might have to rescue their daughters or who are, say, hedge fund managers and have one foot on the sidelines watching their kids and the other in nefarious cover-ups and conspiracies. These are the “real life” stories that intrigue me and provide the basis for the emotional complexity I’m looking for. As for being a dad, it makes you know exactly what you would do—basically anything—to save your own family. And how creepy and evil one has to be to betray theirs!

LG: One thriller writer to another, what draws you to suspense—and what’s your favorite thing about thrillers?

AG: You know what, Lisa, you can make a strong case that thriller writing is the single most relevant genre of fiction being written today, because it reflects the conflicts and crises and stories that we read every day in the news and that shape our world. The people who come to our craft aren’t just graduate students, or MFA candidates or teachers, but CIA agents and journalists and doctors and lawyers whose experiences in life inform their work. As for suspense, I like to write books that draw you into the hero’s plight from the opening pages, where people put their lives on the line for something—a belief, a family member, the truth. I’m actually more into heroism than evil—but it's hard to have one without the other and when their arcs meet and they clash... well, there's suspense!

LG: Without giving too much away, what’s your favorite scene in Eyes Wide Open?

AG: Well, there are many, because the characters are based on people I know. But without doubt, one of the best involves my everyman hero, Jay Erlich, a doctor from Westchester who puts his successful life on hold and his life on the line to find the truth behind his nephew's suicide. Erlich goes to the super-max Pelican Bay Prison to see the long incarcerated Manson-like murderer, Russell Hovnanian. And the thing that makes that scene really creepy, and made hard to write, was that to be credible, this character, Hovnanian, had to be smarter than my hero, smarter than the very smart detective who accompanies him, even smarter than the reader! Oh yeah, the author too. But when it's pulled off, as I hope I did, it's a killer scene.

LG: You wrote six New York Times bestsellers with James Patterson. Dish. What was it like to work with Jim, and how much more fun is it to control everything yourself?

AG: Such good questions. Are you a writer, too? Oh, wait. Never mind.

Ha! Jim and I got along fine; he's an amazing idea guy, his instincts for plot are finely honed, and I think he might even say himself that he's a sharper editor than a writer. I always describe working with him as an MFA and MBA course in thriller management rolled into one. I learned a lot of things about how to craft a thriller that would have taken years to learn on my own—and how to put them in my own style. I’m honestly proud of the six books we did together, all of which went to number one. But yes, I’m kind of a control guy—how did you know?

To his credit, Jim let me have a substantial share of control on the books we did—probably a lot more than I would have. He’s a much more evolved manager than me! And all these books later, I still kind of miss him, calling him up, running a plot idea by him. I mean, is there a better person in the world to bounce an idea off of? But I also like it when the checks are made out solely to me!

LG: Now tell me the truth. What is your least favorite part of writing—and you can only choose one.

AG: Easy—this is becoming a bit of a running theme here—loss of control! You shape your baby from the initial birth of an idea, live with it daily, watch it grow like a child into a fully dimensional being. You feel you know it better than anybody. Then you turn it over and put it out into the world and between the cover, the marketing, the presentation at retail and the sales, it all takes place without you being able to control its destiny a single lick! And by that time, you're already halfway into the next one anyway!

LG: Finally, what do you want readers to take away from reading Eyes Wide Open—and congrats on another great novel!

AG: Thanks, Lisa. What I would have them take away is that Eyes Wide Open is not only a thrilling read, it's also an engrossing, emotional family story—about a family with a dark history and the lengths it will go to protect that secret. It’s also about two brothers, one wayward, the other successful, and how they try to bridge the gap that tore them apart. It reads like a personal memoir chock-full of thrills. And it’s my family story.

So great to be with you today! I was a big fan of Love You More. It’s been a lot of fun!


“An emotional, frightening study of evil with believable characters and a relentless pace. Readers who wear pacemakers will want to check their batteries before they open the book.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Gross’s suspenseful second stand-alone thriller (after The Blue Zone) raises chills and strains credulity in almost equal measure.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A chilling page-turner drawn from the author’s life.” (People)

“An energetic story with brisk action and a personal tale about a family gone awry .. vivid story-telling makes each aspect of EYES WIDE OPEN creepily realistic, including the chilling ending. ” (Miami Herald)

“Gross is a master of 3-dimensional characters... compelling with its intensity.” (abcnews.go.com)

“A good read... an eye-opener... a dramatic story.” (St. Augustine Record)

“A dark psychological thriller that moves at a fast pace... totally engrossing and one book you do not want to pass on.” (Bestsellersworld.com)

“Each and every page of this thriller makes the goosebumps stand up as high as they will go... a superb novel full of fear, chills and mind-games that are truly unforgetable!” (Feathered Quill Book Reviews)

“Gross offers dysfunction galore in this psychological thriller.” (The Oklahoman)

“Gross is a master of 3-D characters….Compelling with its intensity….Gross has written his best book to date.” (Associated Press)

“If there are tricks of the trade, Gross has learned them all. He writes with seeming ease, offering no fancy stylistic tics, no overwrought prose, no melodrama, just a menacing tale with effective twists, perfect pacing, intriguing characters, and heart-gripping suspense.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“Gross’s suspenseful second stand-alone thriller…raises chills…” (Publishers Weekly)

“Emotional weight... a harrowing story that works its own terrible magic on a reader... a high velocity page-turner... the personal drama moves us before the thriller elements kick into high gear. (Connecticut Post)

More to Explore
Download an essay by Andrew Gross on writing Eyes Wide Open [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: WilliamMr; First Edition edition (July 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061655961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061655968
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on July 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I decided to read the new thriller EYES WIDE OPEN in large part because a lot of the action takes place in Morro Bay, California. I have fond memories of this central coast town from an LA to San Francisco trip on the Pacific Coast Highway taken quite a few years ago. After receiving the book I discovered the central death in the book was "inspired" by the suicide of the author's nephew who jumped from Morro Bay Rock in a similar manner as the victim in this novel. I was further surprised to discover that a lot of the plot of this fictional book involves a murderous hippie clan quite obviously modeled on the group that committed some of California's most infamous murders in the late 1960's.

EYES WIDE OPEN is a quick read with many short chapters that often end with a cliffhanger. Some of the chapters are told in first person by the protagonist of the book, Jay, a suburban New York surgeon who has come west to help his bereaved brother and sister-in-law. The other chapters are told from the viewpoint and memories of various other characters. The first third of the book is the most interesting and the best written as both the writing and plotting goes down from there to the point that the climax and aftermath of the plot became quite a chore to finish. The author does return to better form with a chilling epilogue that seems to promise a sequel. The book is OK as a beach or plane read but there are so many other books out there that are more worthy of a reader's time.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My eyes were open almost all night as I read this in nearly one sitting. This is a face-paced thriller that steadily weaves a thrilling tale and draws you in each step of the way. Dr. Erlich has an aging hippy brother whose son has just mysteriously died--and no one is sure if it is a suicide or homicide. The doc goes out to console the shaken brother, Charlie, and is drawn into more than he ever expected. The police, mental health hospital, murders in other areas, the doc's own past, and a "Manson family" like group that Charlie knew from his hippie days are all woven into the mix. Ominous clues are found by the doc, who refuses to give up his search for the truth, to his own risk.

There is a psychological dimension to many of the characters, including the deceased boy, Charlie, the brother's father, and the "Manson family" like members from the past that add to the tension in this thriller. There is so much dysfunction that you know there has to be trouble somewhere. The author does a fine job of tying it all together and bringing the book to its climax. The writing style is similar to the author's work with James Patterson--there is a cliff hanger in nearly every chapter that keeps things moving right along.

Get this book if you want your eyes wide open until you have the chance to finish it, because you won't be able to put it down.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Andrew Gross's thriller, "Eyes Wide Open," is a swiftly read though twisted of a family looking for answers to their son's suicide. The big question is did Evan really jump off a cliff into the Pacific, or was he pushed?

When his successful Uncle Jay comes from the East Coast to try to help his brother (Evan's father), his presence is at first welcomed and then shunned. Charlie has had enough of his brother trying to "save" him. But Charlie cannot seem to cope on his own with his mental issues, drug issues, and wandering lifestyle. His son, the dead Evan, also had been diagnosed as bipolar.

Why can't Jay leave well enough alone and let the cops/coroner do their jobs?

Suffice it to say that Jay can't just walk away, and as he delves further into the mystery, more people die, huge secrets emerge, and the reader definitely has EYES WIDE OPEN.

I'm not a fan of James Patterson with whom Gross has co-authored some titles, but on his own, Gross writes with skill. I'm adding his other works to my "TBR" list!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you've ever read the infamous book Helter Skelter, then you've already read 3/4's of this book. It was a badly disguised ripoff of the Charles Manson murders used as a storyline for a not particularly good mystery. It seemed like the theme of the book kept getting reiterated by the author, not sure if he thought the reader would be suffering from short term memory loss or what.

In the author's notes in the afterword, Gross mentions that he's never written a book like this before and that it is based loosely on a real life personal tragedy that affected his family. Perhaps he shouldn't attempt to stray from the genre in which he has become successful because this novel simply didn't work for me. Had it not been part of the Vine program with some obligation to finish it and write a review, I probably would not have completed the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always loved Andrew Gross's books but this one is very difficult to get into. There is no excitement and I have wanted to put the book down and read something else. The only reason I keep reading is I payed a good price to have this downloaded to my Kindle. If I could get my money back I would. Sorry Andrew but not half as good as your last two books.
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Format: Paperback
I'm happy to admit devouring Sherlock Holmes, Travis McGee, Bony and Philip Marlowe novels when I was younger, with James Ellroy, Sam Reaves and more recently Brett Battles just some of the other excellent crime writers I have had the pleasure to read.

And I'll happily rate James Patterson as pretty good, so when I saw his "a sexy-as-hell thriller" praise on the dust jacket of "Killing Hour", I figured Andrew Gross must be an OK author.

What I missed was the inside dust jacket, which notes that James Patterson and Andrew Gross have co-authored at least 5 books. Which downgrades Patterson's "sexy-as-hell" comment somewhat, because he can hardly claim any degree of impartiality in his assessment of Gross' style and plotting if they are writing buddies.

Unfortunately, Patterson is clearly the better author because "Killing Hour" was a dud of a book for me.

What made it a dud? First up, the prologue and opening chapter are third person perspective (to set the scene I guess) then it drops into a first person narrative. It was jarring and it seemed unimaginative not to have the first person narrative pick up the pieces in retrospect so that we could journey with him. Then, at what feel like random moments, a chapter will drop back to third person perspective. I guess the intent is to move things along and make sure "we" didn't miss anything, but it is just so clunky.

Second, the prose was pedestrian. "I barely slept that night. I tossed and turned for most of it, my blood racing". That's pretty much the level all the way through. It is not incisive or engaging or even deep and meaningful. Just a drone of descriptive dross, like when my cell phone reads my emails aloud for me.
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