15 Seconds by Andrew Gross

December 6, 2012

Plot summary (from the publisher): Henry Steadman didn’t know what was about to hit him when he pulled up to a red light. A successful Florida plastic surgeon, he is in town to deliver a keynote address at a conference when suddenly his life becomes an unrelenting chase to stay alive.

Stopped by a policeman for a minor traffic violation, Henry is pulled from his vehicle and handcuffed. When he is released, a blue sedan pulls up, shoots the officer, and then speeds away, leaving only one suspect—Henry. In that moment, his idyllic life becomes a free fall into hell as he becomes the target of a police manhunt, as well as being pursued by a cunning, unnamed perpetrator bent on some kind of vengeance.

With breakneck pacing and nonstop action, 15 Seconds shows what can happen when even the best life is turned upside down in an instant.

Warning: Spoilers below!


  • I’m glad nothing happened between Henry and Carrie until well after the main conflict was resolved. Too often in these types of novels, the male and female leads somehow find time to hook up even though their lives are on the line.


  • The opening scene with Henry being pulled over was just terrible, IMO. It showed the main character as a self-entitled whiner, which turned me against him right from the start, and it was also interminably long. I almost put the book down then and there (and probably should have, on second thought).
  • Vance Hofer was conveniently negligent throughout this book. The first time he called Henry to tell him he had kidnapped his daughter, Hofer warned Henry not to go to the police or get himself caught. But for what end?? Instead of calling Henry every hour or whatever and making him jump through hoops, Hofer just left the guy to his own devices — giving him plenty of time to do his own investigative work and ultimately find out Hofer’s identity. That was just dumb.
  • The writing itself was awful. I don’t pick up these books expecting great literature, but Gross was beyond bad. Henry alternately felt his “stomach”, “insides”, and “heart” “clawing its way up” his throat time and time again. And I can’t even count how many times I read that “his eyes widened” or “her eyes widened” in surprise, shock, fear, anguish, etc. Ugh. Couldn’t the author have at least tried to come up with different phrases?
  • At one point in the book, Henry said that he would look into his pain clinics to see how they were dispensing meds and perhaps try to tighten up the controls if possible. But then he never followed up on that (the book ends with him in a South American country doing Doctors Without Borders stuff). I thought it was kind of odd for the author to just drop that point entirely — especially since the pain meds were such a critical part of the story. Why not have Henry open up some rehab facilities or something to help prevent another tragedy?
  • Henry’s choice to leave the first crime scene (the murdered police officer) was completely dumb and unbelievable. He fled because everyone had just seen him in cuffs in the back of the dead officer’s car? Huh??? Hasn’t he ever seen an episode of CSI? He had no gun on him, and what’s more, no motive or GUNSHOT RESIDUE on his hands!!! That was just so stupid.
  • I could go on and on about how implausible the events in this book were, but, really, what’s the point?


Andrew Gross’s collaborations with James Patterson have been some of the more readable beach books I’ve tried. I was hoping for more out of this solo effort, but was extremely disappointed with 15 Seconds. The main character was unlikable, the bad guy opponent was passive, and the action was far from convincing. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.

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