The novel No Country for Old Men follows three central characters: Llewellyn Moss, a young hunter who happens upon a drug deal gone bad; Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic killer; and Ed Tom Bell, a local Texas sheriff. The seemingly simple plot is that Moss finds (in the midst of a lot of dead bodies) a suitcase filled with over $2 million in cash. He takes the suitcase and is on the run throughout the story. Chigurh, who is somehow involved in the money exchange with the drug dealers, has one purpose in mind: getting the money back, no holds barred. Bell is the unlikely and unsuccessful hero of the story. He tries to save Moss’s life.
Considering the way the novel is written, readers might find themselves rooting for Moss. He is the “little guy” in the company of some very “big” criminals. Moss is also young and thinks he can outsmart the big guys. Through the use of his intelligence and a bit of good luck, Moss keeps slipping away. However, he realizes that there is no turning back. He has entered an underground world from which there is only one exit—his death.
Sheriff Bell, meanwhile, has committed himself to protecting the people who live within his jurisdiction. He knows that Moss is in over his head. Bell, along the way, realizes that he too is in over his head. He tries to get Moss to turn himself in. But Moss is slippery, and Bell cannot quite get to him in time.
Chigurh is at least as intelligent as Moss and Bell and a thousand times more evil. Chigurh is a coldhearted man, eager to kill anyone who tries to cross his path. A Washington Post reviewer hit the nail on the head when he called McCarthy’s book, a “profoundly disturbing and gorgeously rendered” novel.