Jay Erlick’s life has been a text book example of success. His brother Charlie’s life has been messy from the start. Charlie drifted away from his family and into the hippy culture of the sixties until he eventually gets caught up in a fringe cult led by a charismatic leader with a psychopathic personality. Fast forward a few decades and Jay’s life is still text book perfect while Charlie has put the past behind him, married and has a family. And then tragedy strikes. Charlie’s son is found at the bottom of a cliff assumed to be a suicide victim. Heading west to help his brother deal with the loss of his son, Jay immediately realizes there is more to the death than a suicide. Could his nephew have been murdered? And is there something in Charlie’s wild past that has come back, after all these years, to haunt Charlie? Jay soon realizes he knows little about his brother’s past.
The plotting of this book will come as no surprise to readers. The basic story formula is one that has been used countless times with variations in setting, characters’ back story and eventual outcome. There is a death of an innocent person under suspicious circumstances, family members are looking for answers, the past comes into play and there is a breakneck paced rush to the finale between the hunter and hunted. Whether this formula works or not is entirely dependent on the skill of the writer to craft the tale in such a way as to keep the suspense building and the pages turning until the end. Author Gross does this just about as well as any suspense writer around. Readers pretty much know what’s coming-or at least they think they do, but even with the boogie man on the other side of the door (or in this case the next page) they are driven to go there and go there quickly. Gross does this mainly through the use of very short chapters with teasing endings that just dare the reader to try and put the book down-and of course they can’t.
There are a couple ways to look at Eyes Wide Open. With its short chapters which end with a tease of things let to come, and the building suspense as the main characters races to find the truth before the truth of the past destroys them has all the makings of a thriller. And a top notch thriller it is. But on another layer, Eyes Wide Open is the story of two brothers whose lives took radically different paths causing them to drift apart. But brothers they remain, and when tragedy strikes, the bound of brotherhood comes through in spite of the dangers involved. Either way you want to read it, Eyes Wide Open is a perfect book to take to the beach or pool this summer.