The Cave Dwellers

Scout: Gallery. May 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781982132781. $28. F
DEBUT NOVEL McDowell’s fiction debut (following a memoir, After Perfect) is a brutal, satirical look at life in Washington, DC, and the author knows whereof she speaks; she grew up there. The catalyst for the story is the torture and brutal murder of a wealthy, power-wielding white family, including their teenage daughter. One of her classmates is determined to get to some sort of understanding of what happened and why, and she goes to the jail to visit the young Black man who has been arrested for the crime. It turns out his father was an employee of the family who were killed, and motive is quickly established. The wives of the most powerful families in the nation’s capital are all perturbed, but so are their teenage children, the private school classmates of the murdered girl. These are among the most privileged families in the country, and the satire here is deeply wounding; racism, misogyny, and class hierarchy are all fair game, and the irony is inescapable and delicious.
VERDICT A fascinating, gossipy glimpse into the lives of the one percent (with footnotes) that should appeal to readers who enjoyed The Assistants, by Camille Perri, or Capital Girls, by Ella Monroe.
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