McDowell by William H. Coles is a novel that follows the rise and fall of a man, surgeon Hiram McDowell. McDowell climbs quickly in his career and gains the respect of his peers and the community. But he is not in the good graces of most of his colleagues, thanks to his callousness and pride. His success gets him into the President’s circle, but a tragedy that leads to a conviction destroys everything. McDowell finds himself running from the authorities, losing both his reputation and his wealth. Can he find redemption? Can he rebuild his life again?
This novel is well-written, focused, and features a well-imagined and multidimensional protagonist. The writing is superb and I enjoyed the author’s ability to explore human nature, writing deftly on the sentiments and the emotions of the characters. The protagonist is a gifted person with a tragic flaw — his pride. His level of success is captured in vivid prose that describes the moment of his induction: “The night of Hiram’s induction into the College, the auditorium bristled with a formal festivity. Dignitaries sat in black robes in chairs lined in four rows on the stage. As the new president, Hiram stood tall, his hands resting on a flag-draped podium facing the audience, his image gleaming from four giant screens suspended from the auditorium ceiling and projecting to the seven thousand plus surgeons and families in the audience.” William H. Coles is a master entertainer and while the novel makes for a delightful read, it also offers powerful lessons on humility, integrity, and humanity. One of those thrillers for readers who enjoy novels with strong characters.