In 1980 Texas, near the U.S.–Mexico border, Llewelyn Moss finds the aftermath of a deadly drug deal. Among the wreckage, he sees guns, corpses, and a case with $2.4 million inside. Moss takes the case of money, believing the decision to be harmless. Later, he returns to the site and is seen by some people involved in the drug deal. Identifying Moss sets off a chain of violent events; the criminals know he has the money, and they want it back. Moss is hunted by a ruthless hitman named Anton Chigurh, who uses a silenced shotgun and a captive bolt pistol to kill his victims. Chigurh has no conscience or remorse and will not hesitate to kill anyone who stands in his way, sometimes determining life or death with a coin flip. No matter where Moss runs, there is no place to hide from him. To protect his wife, Moss sends her away while he travels across Texas, pursued by Chigurh. Moving to new locations almost every night to avoid being killed, it soon becomes apparent to Moss that staying safe is not possible.
Meanwhile, an aging sheriff named Ed Tom Bell investigates the situation, simultaneously coming to terms with the fact that he might no longer be fit to serve as the sheriff. Throughout the book, his narrations are inserted, telling his experiences as sheriff. A World War II veteran, he has a hard time getting over mistakes he made while serving, and the haunting memories frequently interfere with his performance as a law enforcement officer. Nonetheless, he puts all his effort into finding and protecting Moss and his wife before they are harmed. Bell tries to track down Moss and capture the people who are after him.
Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (2005) shows that a person does not need 600 pages to write a good book. With just around 300 pages, McCarthy tells a story consisting of suspense, shootouts, and plenty more action. The characters are great, and large amounts of dialogue make it more enjoyable. The highlight of this book though is Anton Chigurh, one of my all-time favorite villains; this is an example of how important the bad guy can be in making or breaking a story, sometimes even more than the protagonist. He is unique in his methods as a hitman as well as in his dark and indifferent personality. It is certainly one you will be thinking about long after getting to the end.
On that note, I want to add that No Country for Old Men was made into a terrific movie in 2007 directed by the Coen brothers, starring Tommy Lee Jones as Ed Tom Bell, Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, and Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss. After its release, Bardem took home a well-deserved Academy Award for his remarkable portrayal of one of the coldest and most frightening villains ever created. The movie is just as good as the book, which is very rare!
—Aaron Katzman ’22
First Edition Cover: Alfred A. Knopf Inc. (2005)