The novel takes us through Kerney's life and adventures and then follows Patrick Kerney into the 20th century. Along with the Kerneys, there's Cal Doran, who's handy with a gun and who's a good friend to both John, Patrick, and Emma, Patrick's wife. There's a lot going on in the novel, and the Kerneys are involved in both the Spanish American War and WWI. They meet and get involved with historical figures like Billy the Kid, Albert Fall, Eugene Manlove Rhodes, and a lot of others. There are fights with the Apaches, roundups and brandings, gunfights and crime investigations. The history of New Mexico and the history of the Kerneys play out together. New Mexico is the hard country of the title, and the land itself plays a big role in the story.
There's a lot going on, but it's all easy to follow thanks to McGarrity's writing. His style is perfect for the story, and it carries everything along at a brisk pace, making the book seem much shorter than it is.
If you're familiar with McGarrity's crime novels, you know that they feature a character named Kevin Kerney. It's his ancestors that we meet in Hard Country. They're quite a crew, though for me Cal Doran was by far the most likable character in the book. Patrick Kerney, to tell the truth, is pretty hard to take.
It's great to see a big, sweeping western like this one from a major publisher, and I expect it to be a contender for a Spur award, and probably a winner. Check it out.