three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
18-Sept-Oct-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-NoCountryOldMenIn 1980, a young Vietnam vet out hunting one day in southwest Texas stumbles across the bloody remains of a drug deal gone bad—a dead man, some drugs, and a suitcase with more than $2 million cash. Despite his better judgment, Llewelyn Moss steals the money, although he knows this act will haunt him forever. Just as he expects, men come after him—a psychopathic killer, an ex-Special Forces agent, and old Sheriff Bell who harbors a dark secret himself. It’s just another battle between good and evil on the modern Western frontier.
Knopf. 309 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0375406778

Houston Chronicle 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Through squinted eyes this novel can be seen as a morality tale nestled within a fast-paced and compelling crime saga. … [McCarthy] is nothing less than our greatest living writer, and this is a novel that must be read and remembered, a jeremiad against the depravity that lurks on the horizon, the anguish that burns the borderland of the Americas." William J. Cobb

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"The action is all external, and it makes compulsive reading. … [Y]ou will come away from the reading experience with something more than Grisham or Crichton or any other genre writer can provide—a look into the darkest places of the human heart." Dan Pope

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"No spoilers here. The best part of the questions the author raises is the business of looking for the answers."
Kit Reed

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This is a profoundly disturbing and gorgeously rendered novel that will certainly be quibbled with. … Modern society’s abandonment of Christ is frequently mentioned, which, while fitting the near-stereotypical rural nature of these characters, is handled simplistically." Jeffrey Lent

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Mr. McCarthy has always vacillated between clean, Hemingwayesque prose and pseudo-Faulknerian grandiloquence, and in this novel, he makes poor Bell the mouthpiece of his most ponderous, sentimental and high-falutin’ musings." Michiko Kakutani

Christian Science Monitor 2 of 5 Stars
"The first killing occurs on Page 4, the second on Page 5, and after that, even the characters have a hard time keeping track. … As a result, the murders are numbing rather than moving, and none has the power of the lone boot left after the death of a teenage boy in Horses." Yvonne Zipp

Kansas City Star 2 of 5 Stars
"[The novel] lacks the sweeping lyricism and biblical cadences of many of his previous works; it consists, instead, of his most hard-boiled, stripped-down prose to date, a style many readers will find off-putting." Kathleen Johnson

Critical Summary

McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, distinguished by the award-winning All the Pretty Horses (1992), contains dark Westerns set against beautiful, bleak landscapes. His newest novel updates his character-driven plots and themes of violence and moral ambiguity. Perhaps the true sign of a master is one whose work raises debate—and this is what No Country has done. Most critics praised McCarthy’s clean, simple prose, though a few thought it too spare for such a graceful stylist. ("The man looked at Chigurh’s eyes for the first time. Blue as lapis. At once glistening and opaque. Like wet stones.") Compelling characters (even women) abound, but Sheriff Bell came off as either smart or too long winded. Finally, the violence seemed gratuitous to some. Even if No Country may be a more minor McCarthy novel, it’s still a terrifying page-turner in the vein of the Trilogy.