You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Cormac McCarthy's novels are filled with a gritty violence, and No Country for Old Men is no exception. The story starts with Llewelyn Moss, a Vietnam vet and hunter, when he stumbles on the results of a bad drug deal in the desert one day. There are cars and trucks, dead bodies, automatic weapons, and a truckload of heroin. He follows a trail to another dead man with a case full of money, over 2 million dollars. He takes the money home but returns to check on one man who wasn't dead yet. Two other men find him and chase him, but he manages to get away.

Sheriff Bell is a long time sheriff who finds the crime scene. Chigurh is one of the criminals involved, who kills anybody who gets in his way. He uses a cattle gun to knock out locks and kill people without leaving evidence. He tracks down Moss's trailer after Moss and his wife Carla Jean leave town. Carla Jean goes to her mother's while Llewelyn goes to a hotel where he nearly loses the money to more dealers looking for it. Chigurh tracks Moss to another hotel near the Mexican border, and nearly gets killed. A shootout injures Moss and he travels across the border, leaving the case of money hidden.

Bell talks to Carla Jean, but she won't admit anything to him or help him find her husband. He follows the trial of bodies to the hotel near the border. Moss gets help at a hospital and returns to find his money. Chigurh calls him and tells him that his wife will die unless he hands over the money, but Moss refuses.

Moss picks up a young hitchhiker on the way to his wife, but more criminals catch up with them and kill them in a hotel room. Bell finds them at the crime scene. He comes back later and realizes that Chigurh, who he only knows as the murderer he has been tracking but never seen, has already been there and found the money hidden in an air duct. Bell tells Carla Jean that her husband is dead, but shortly after, Chirgurh follows through on his promise and kills her. The story ends with Bell talking about his past with his uncle, then trying one last time to track down Chirgurh, then finally quitting as sheriff.

Each part starts with a monologue by Bell, as he talks about how hard it is to be a sheriff and how it's getting harder all the time. He knows that the drug dealers are merciless and cold. Chigurh is the embodiment of cold evil, much like the Judge in Blood Meridian. He knows how to kill and won't let anyone stop him. That Bell cannot ever find him shows that he is almost a force of nature, like a ghost the Bell is chasing.

The action is fast and relentless, always on the edge. We see not only shootouts but the deadly results. It's telling that the money Moss uses to make his escapes is always covered with blood. The overall effect of the story is one of tense dread, the anticipation that there will always be more violence. And in the end Chirgurh gets away, is always out there, waiting to work another deadly job. The novel is a solid A. I look forward to seeing the movie.


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