cover image Hard Country

Hard Country

Michael McGarrity. Dutton, $28.95 (624p) ISBN 978-0-525-95246-6

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)