McDowell by William H. Coles presents the tragic fall of an arrogant man from grace. Hiram McDowell is a brilliant, admired, and respected surgeon with many flaws — arrogance, narcissism, and boundless pride. He is a selfish man who watches his climbing partner die on Mt. Everest, belittles his wife, ignores his children, and tricks his colleague. The author paints the picture of a man who cares for no one but himself, and surprisingly, he seems to move from one success to another, and as his success grows, so does his pride. His success leads him to become one of the cabinet members of the president. But when his grandson, Jeremy, is on life support, McDowell makes a decision that will destroy him. Now with his world and success, even his reputation gone, he embarks on a path to redemption. This is a man who once lived at the top of the world, now being hunted. Can he create a new life and find a new purpose and freedom — real inner freedom?
William H. Coles’ novel is a character-driven thriller that explores a man’s fall from grace as a result of his tragic flaws. The first part of the book introduces readers to McDowell’s world, his activities, his treatment of people less fortunate than himself, and his manner of exercising power and ego. The opening is compelling, a captivating narration about Hiram leaving Woolf to die in the frozen mountains in spite of the latter begging, “Don’t leave me, Hiram.” There is something very revelatory about this man in the two sentences that conclude that scene: “On return home after his miracle survival, Hiram dreamed of immortality.” Coles offers an array of interesting characters, but the focus on McDowell and his humanity are what sets this novel apart and establishes its depth. This author deftly explores the idea of how our decisions and choices in life follow us. There is a powerful shift as readers switch from experiencing hatred for this unconventional protagonist to feeling pity for him as he struggles to mend his life. The writing is gorgeous and Coles’ ability to build a strong connection between readers and characters — thanks to the intelligent use of realism in the writing —augments the entertainment potential of the story. McDowell is a winner for fans of literary fiction and psychological thrillers with characters that are robust and complex.
REVIEWED BY DANIEL RHODES
Review Date: May 18, 2022