Reviews for Hard Country

Kirkus Reviews 2012 May #2
Satisfying oater of the old-fashioned--or at least McMurtryesque--school. Nobody ever said that taming the Wild West would be easy. But must it involve rattlesnakes dropping down from the ceiling to share the evening meal? It must if you're hard-bitten John Kerney, who just can't catch a break, even if he can read. His life out on the dusty plains of West Texas is punctuated by his wife's death in childbirth, his brother's murder and too damn many bullets. Enter a helpful stranger who, though he violates the code of taciturnity--"In the brush country of southwest Texas, a man's past was considered his own business, unless he was otherwise inclined to talk about it"--becomes a protector of sorts for Kerney and the son he has had to leave behind. So, too, is another rawhide-tough buckaroo, Cal Doran, who takes no guff himself. Alas, John is not with the narrative for long before other obligations come due, but his son more than takes his place in a narrative that soon becomes very busy, crowded with real-world characters from late 19th-century New Mexico, among them Pat Garrett (the lawman who gunned down Billy the Kid) and Oliver Lee (the rancher "on the east side of the Tularosa" who may or may not have gunned down a neighbor in a feud that still reverberates). There's plenty of period detail in this western by mystery novelist McGarrity (Tularosa, 1996, etc.). There's appropriate language to boot; as a wizened old rancher reflects, for instance, "A waddie looking for work on foot wasn't typical, and the saddle sure didn't show much pride." Yet there's no anachronism one way or another, not too much Walter Brennan-ish gibberish or too many false concessions to modernity. A well-rendered neoclassic tale of the Old West, worthy of a place alongside Lonesome Dove and Sea of Grass. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 April #1

In the first of a planned trilogy, McGarrity takes a break from his Kevin Kerney mysteries (Dead or Alive) to trace the long history of the Kerney family. In 1875, John Kerney settles on the west Texas plains with optimistic plans to build his Double K ranch brand. However, after the death of his wife during childbirth and the murder of his brother and nephew by thieves, John leaves the ranch and his child behind to hunt the murderers. Though this novel of the old West features cowboys, rustlers, expansive ranches, outlaws, and skirmishes with the Apache, its characters also deal with the shrinking of the frontier as the United States expands into their once-remote territory. VERDICT McGarrity took great care in reviving the old West with accuracy, citing works on cowboy daily life and important historical characters in his author's note. Any readers interested in the Western genre will be delighted by McGarrity's take on harsh frontier life, and loyal fans of detective Kevin Kerney will be excited to see this prequel. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/11.]--Brooke Bolton, North Manchester P.L., IN

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 March #1

This sprawling western saga shakes trail dust through three generations of New Mexico ranchers carving out a place in the Tularosa Basin at the end of the frontier era. McGarrity, a former Santa Fe deputy sheriff and author of the long-running Kevin Kerney mystery series, gives his police chief protagonist a familiar family backstory, sending Civil War veteran John Kerney to the New Mexico territory to establish a ranch in an era when work was tough, cowboys were tougher, and daily life was an uncertain proposition. McGarrity knows and loves the harsh landscape, but his characters are sparely drawn, and the emotionally stunted, suspicious, and compulsively misanthropic Patrick Kerney makes for a difficult protagonist to carry the family saga element of this expansive novel. Insights are spelled out, rather than shown. "The forsaken, lost little boy who lived inside of Patrick made him who he was, but that didn't give him the right to bully her," and the frequent cowboy talk is laid on too thickly. But fans of McGarrity's modern police procedurals will appreciate his chronicle of a time and place that he obviously cares for. (May 10)

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