Book Review: No Country for Old Men

Note: This is book #30 of my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge for 2008.

I’ve said before that I would hate to be a character in a John Steinbeck novel, but I think it would be worse to be one in a Carmac McCarthy story. Sure, Steinbeck’s characters often end up getting mauled, shot, or starved to death, but those are still better odds than most of the folks between the front and back covers of McCarthy’s books. And No Country for Old Men is no exception.

Where The Road was a kind of sci-fi horror story and Blood Meridian was kind of Western, No Country for Old Men is more of a contemporary thriller. Everyman Llewelyn Moss is out in the Texas backcountry one day when he comes across the remains of a drug deal gone bad –dead bodies, bullet-ridden SUVs, stacks of heroin, and a suitcase bursting with money. Moss gets greedy and takes the money, and after a couple of early blunders he’s on the run from three groups: the criminals who were trying to sell the drugs, the criminals who were trying to buy the drugs, and a genteel County Sheriff named Tom Bell who just wants to bring Moss in safely. Before long a psychotic hitman enters the chase, and things don’t look good for Moss and his money bag.

It’s really had to describe much of what happens next without giving away some surprises, but suffice to say that Cormac McCarthy’s penchant for brutality, hopelessness, and long-winded philosopher/murderers permeates this book, though it’s not as vulgar in its depiction of violence as Blood Meridian. Still, it’s not a bad ride for a thriller, and McCarthy’s elegant prose continues to grow on me. I also liked the parts that spoke through Sheriff Tom Bell’s voice. To bring back the comparison to Steinbeck, McCarthy has a gift for authentically capturing the tone and dialect of certain people.

Others doing the 52-in-52 thing this week:

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