No Country for Old Men ~ A Capsule Book Review

No Country for Old Men book cover
No Country for Old Men
~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp ~

Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men, is set in Texas around 1980.

There are three principal characters in No Country for Old Men:

  • Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, sheriff of Terrell County, Texas. He represents the old America where people said “sir” and “ma’am” and were polite to each other. He is approaching the end of his career as a lawman. He has little patience for, or understanding of, the modern world.
  • Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic killer with a philosophical bent. He kills, not so much because he enjoys killing, but because he believes it is what he is supposed to do. He has no sympathy or empathy for any of his victims. In reading the book, I eventually lost track of how much many people he kills.
  • Llewellyn Moss is the “everyman” character. He is thirty-six years old, a decent and ordinary fellow who works as a welder, lives in a trailer and has a pretty, nineteen-year-old wife named Carla Jean.

Out in an isolated spot in the Texas desert, Llewellyn Moss inadvertently stumbles across a scene of carnage: a drug deal gone wrong. There are several vehicles and eight dead bodies. It’s apparent there has been a shootout. After Llewellyn does a little snooping, he comes across a case containing over two million dollars. What does he do? Does he alert the police? No, he takes the case home with him. He may be unsophisticated, but he’s not stupid. He knows that somebody will be coming after him to get the money back and, even if they do get the money back, they will still kill him.

It’s up to traditional Texas lawman Ed Tom Bell to solve the drug-shootout crime in the desert, since it happened in his jurisdiction. Besides eight dead bodies and some shot-up vehicles, he doesn’t have much to go on. Llewellyn Moss knows that as long as he has the two million dollars in his possession, he is in deadly peril. He sends Carla Jean to her mama in Odessa and goes on the run. He comes to realize after a while that, in with the money, is a “transponder” sending a signal of his whereabouts to a receiver. This does not bode well for him.

It’s up to murderer Anton Chigurh to locate the money and get it back, inflicting pain, death, and mayhem with his every move. He might be thought of as the physical incarnation of Satan.

No Country for Old Men is a sort of modern-day western. It might just as easily have taken place in 1880 as 1980. There’s a crime committed and then the crime’s aftermath. There’s the hunter and the hunted. There are good men and bad. There are surprising twists and turns in the plot. There is much death, much violence. Cormac McCarthy turns it all on its ear.

Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp

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