No Country for Old Men.
Cormac McCarthy.

Five pages into Cormac McCarthy's latest novel four people are dead, two of them executed in the bloodiest detail.

Soon after that five more men and one dog have been killed out in the desert, while another man is pleading for water with his dying breath.

Indeed, this powerful and disturbing book is not for the squeamish. Set on the bleak border between Texas and Mexico, No Country For Old Men charts the interlocking stories of Llewelyn Moss and the local lawman, Sheriff Bell.

Moss is hunting antelope when he comes across the carnage in the desert and finds, amid the corpses, a consignment of heroin and two million dollars in cash.

With prose as sparse and cruelly beautiful as the desert landscape, McCarthy turns up the tension and measures out his hangman's rope without flinching.

As elsewhere in McCarthy's work, morality and justice struggle to keep up as the body count rises.

But there is another ghost stalking the chapters of this brutal catalogue , the spectre of the Iraq war. Indeed, although never mentioned by name, Iraq is the parallel narrative to the endless killing on the Mexican border.

McCarthy's harsh story haunts the contested territory between right and wrong, and faith and despair in America.

Tim Ross