In McDowell by William H. Coles, Hiram McDowell, a self-obsessed, narcissistic surgeon, is on his second marriage and heading quickly for divorce. Hiram believes people, including his wife and children, exist to serve his needs. He manages to make many enemies in business too and is facing an investigation into professional misconduct. Hiram seems oblivious to his family problems, a grandson that falls into crime, a daughter that is struggling to cope since her mother’s death from cancer and her sexuality, and a son who is having an affair with his stepsister. But when his grandson dies suddenly, Hiram’s world is turned upside down as he faces a murder charge. The events that follow estrange him from his family and set him on a journey that forces him to learn harsh life lessons and the goodness of humanity. However, Hiram must keep moving as he is being tracked by a young reporter and the police who want to bring him to justice.
From the first scene, the character of Hiram is clearly defined. He is a vile character who uses and abuses everyone he comes into contact with. He tries to be a good father but fails miserably. I loved the conflict between the different character relationships, especially Billie and Tasha which covered a taboo subject very sensitively. There are numerous subplots to keep you engaged and each is strong and compelling. I thought the added dimension looking at female issues, such as females being reliant on their partners financially, being passed over in the workplace and the mental strength they show when problems arise, added so much realism to the story. The transformation of Hiram’s character in the second part of the novel was carefully executed and not rushed, making it totally believable. There are some very sentimental moments but also tension and superb plot twists too. I read this book in one sitting and the ending surely makes way for a sequel.