4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
McDowell by William H.Coles begins with a talented, dynamic, ambitious surgeon and avid mountain climber cresting Mount Everest after leaving his struggling climbing partner behind to recuperate while he waits for him. He returns to discover the man is still too exhausted to continue. He makes a calculated decision, unclips the man's oxygen and leaves him to die. Further on he comes across a corpse. He removes a candy bar and a bottle of water. As he prepares to plod on McDowell notices a crucifix in the man's hand. He pauses to remove it to return it to the man's family. Hiram McDowell, calculated, ruthless, complex and ultimately a survivor.
Years later McDowell is riding the crest of the wave when a young boy goes on a killing spree and then turns the gun on himself. He blows his face away. McDowell cuts off the oxygen supply from the comatose perpetrator. Legal proceedings are instituted against him. He claims it was mercy killing but is found guilty of second-degree murder and is incarcerated.
Hiram McDowell is not a likeable character. He deals with colleagues ruthlessly. Any compunction he momentarily feels is quickly rationalised away. His attitude to the women in his life is even worse. They are there for his pleasure or a particular purpose. When no longer required they are rudely discarded without a second thought. He is not long in prison when an attempt is made on his life. He realises it is highly unlikely that he will survive there and he escapes.
He heads for the mountains with enough money to survive and pencils and paper. He believes he has been hard done by and wants to vindicate himself by writing his memoirs.
After some time, he discovers, he craves human companionship. Eventually, he dares to enter the small town nearby and there he meets Maude and her family. She gives him a home to stay in and he, in return, does odd jobs to help them. In time he learns to trust and he gives her, his memoirs, to read. She points out how emotional and self-absorbed he is.
Maude is the first of several characters McDowell meets as he travels across the United States, staying just ahead of an investigator on his trail. As a fugitive, he is reduced to living in places and is acquainted with people and their problems he would never have considered before in his previous life. An intelligent man, he discovers concepts like selflessness, chivalry and magnanimity.
Besides McDowell's story, there are other scenarios that flow into the main narrative. Important issues like mass shootings and mercy killing are also featured which brought the story home to me.
I loved the book. It was an engrossing read and I could not put it down. I loved the characterization. The quirky people he meets are often funny, always endearing and very real. A beautiful story I would recommend this book to anyone interested in character-driven books. There was nothing not to like. It is well written, thought-provoking and for me an original read.
It gets a worthy score of four out of four from me.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon | on iTunes | on Smashwords