This blistering novel—from the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Road—returns to the Texas-Mexico border, setting of the famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones.
One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law–in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell–can contain.
As Moss tries to evade his pursuers–in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives–McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.
No Country for Old Men is a triumph.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Meet one of the most evil, disturbing, and undeniably compelling villains in literary history. Set along the Texas-Mexico border at the dawn of the 1980s, Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel is an absolute triumph. When a hunter stumbles across the abandoned payout from a drug runner’s deal gone violently wrong, one impulsive decision unleashes a terrifying chain of events. Seamlessly drawing on genres ranging from Westerns to hardboiled mysteries, No Country for Old Men is deliciously bleak and can’t-stop-reading intense. McCarthy’s austere writing style is as flat as the west Texas landscape, creating maximum impact with the barest minimum of words. Just when you think you know how the story will play out, there’s another shocking turn around the corner. Yes, it’s a gripping crime novel of the highest order, but if you look beneath the surface, you’ll find a deeper meditation on the cruel, unpredictable nature of life and death.
Seven years after Cities of the Plain brought his acclaimed Border Trilogy to a close, McCarthy returns with a mesmerizing modern-day western. In 1980 southwest Texas, Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, stumbles across several dead men, a bunch of heroin and $2.4 million in cash. The bulk of the novel is a gripping man-on-the-run sequence relayed in terse, masterful prose as Moss, who's taken the money, tries to evade Wells, an ex Special Forces agent employed by a powerful cartel, and Chigurh, an icy psychopathic murderer armed with a cattle gun and a dangerous philosophy of justice. Also concerned about Moss's whereabouts is Sheriff Bell, an aging lawman struggling with his sense that there's a new breed of man (embodied in Chigurh) whose destructive power he simply cannot match. In a series of thoughtful first-person passages interspersed throughout, Sheriff Bell laments the changing world, wrestles with an uncomfortable memory from his service in WWII and a soft ray of light in a book so steeped in bloodshed rejoices in the great good fortune of his marriage. While the action of the novel thrills, it's the sensitivity and wisdom of Sheriff Bell that makes the book a profound meditation on the battle between good and evil and the roles choice and chance play in the shaping of a life.
This book sucked me in and grabbed me until it was over. I found myself hoping for more when I reached the end. McCarthy has a way with words that simultaneously complex and irresistibly simple. While it is not quite the haunting tale that it Blood Meridian, it is still a fantastic read.
Read the Book
Skip the movie and read the book. Excellent storytelling by a gifted writer.
Interesting take on honor and pesonal codes
McCarthy tells the story of several lives that interact because Moss, a Vietnam Vet, while out hunting comes upon a drug deal gone bad and takes a case of money. He ends up pursued by drug dealers, the law and a philosophical killer named Chigurh.
The story moves quickly and the bodies pile up. Woven throughout are the thoughts of Bell, the Sheriff who investigates the whole thing and tries to help Moss. Bell reflects on his life and how the world has changed as he finds himself always two steps behind and unable to do what he sees as his job.
The prose is tight, moves quickly, and the dialog helps build the characters. (I listened to the audio version and the narration was well done, just adjusting enough for each character to be distinct.) Chigurh is creepy and yet intense in his own philosophical outlook on life and death. Moss is sympathetic and Bell holds it all together. McCarthy doesn't write happy endings, but it is a good story that questions the ideas of honor, and luck, and how personal codes can drive individuals to extremes that end up lead to a sense of inevitability .
McCarthy intersperses Bell's first person thoughts with the third person narration of the remainder of the book. Even the narrative distance moves in and out depending on who the focus is - Chigurh most distant, while Moss and Bell are in tight, giving a sense of connection that adds to the strange, frightening sense of doom that Chigurh brings.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and having seen the movie years ago, will say that the film managed to bring a difficult story to the screen.