Brilliant for its Appalachian Tennessee vernacular, its compelling country characters, their lives dessicated, limited, dull, as well as for the vivid impressions of a landscape of backwoods, mountains, and caves afflicted by the harsh temperament of weather. And, most of all – for conveying the rapidly deteriorating, twisted impulses of a hypothalamus-ordered mind in the shape of Lewis Ballard, outcast, bitter, serial killer and necrophiliac.
Depressingly, it’s also let down by intermittent, obtrusive break-outs of ugly purple prose so bloated with highfalutin phrases they ruin an entire scene and atmosphere McCarthy has otherwise done wonders to portray. Without those terrible moments, this would be a five-star fiction. With them, it’s a three but still worth reading for what it does achieve as an early work by an important writer.