This is the second novel in the ‘Border Trilogy’. It concerns one Billy Parham and his adventures and misadventures after the murder of his parents. It is bloody and quite brutal, with a constant air of menace. But it is quite hypnotic, and interesting.
It is set in the 1940s, which is interesting in itself, since there are regular hints that the world is changing even as the characters live out what feels like an ancient, very traditional existence. Most of the action occurs in Mexico, a poor and oppressed sort of place. The vistas are huge, food is scarce and it is rural living in the extreme.
There are, typically for McCarthy, a good number of fables with a biblical hue woven into the story: the man who has his eyes sucked out by a cruel officer, which then die away on his cheeks as he looks at the floor, and the man who lives in a ruined church, waiting endlessly for something that will never happen.
The writing is quite intense and there are few laughs. Almost none, in fact. But it is a good and bracing read.