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Review by Viga Boland

In William H. Coles’ novel, The Surgeon’s Wife, Catherine is the lovely but neglected and unappreciated wife of the lauded Dr. Otherson. When Dr. Otherson, a specialist in bariatric surgery, comes under fire for both his procedural competence, and his true motivation for performing surgery on patients only mildly obese, his world and his marriage to Catherine start to fall apart. Unfortunately for her, she finds solace and love in the arms of Michael, once Otherson’s student, but now his superior. What follows for Catherine and her daughter Melissa is heartache, chaos and, ultimately, violence, while Michael battles with his loyalty to his mentor, his duty to those patients who have put their trust in Otherson’s skills, and his love for Catherine.

Just as he did in his more recent novel, McDowell, William H. Coles enjoys, as did Shakespeare, exploring and exploiting the concept of the “tragic flaw”, the one characteristic that causes a hero to come undone. And Coles does this so well. It’s fascinating to watch how Dr. Otherson, at the top of his field when the story opens, hits bottom by the time the story closes, thanks to his one, maybe even several, tragic flaws. One of the beauties of reading books or short stories by William H. Coles is his remarkable ability to reveal characters through dialogue. He relies very little on any other of the usual devices writers use. The result of his approach is a sense of fulfillment in readers: they feel this author knows they are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions about the people in his story. Ultimately, this consistent and superb use of dialogue makes The Surgeon’s Wife a quick, engrossing and satisfying read. Enjoy.

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