Published by Mulholland Books on September 9, 2011
Source: the publisher
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After the loss of his family farm, John Moon is a desperate man. A master hunter, his ability to poach game in-season or out is the only thing that stands between him and the soup kitchen line. Until Moon trespasses on the wrong land, hears a rustle in the brush, and fires a single fateful shot.
Following the bloody trail, he comes upon a shocking scene: an illegal, deep woods campground filled with drugs, bundles of cash and the body of a dead young woman, killed by Moon's stray bullet.
Faced with an ultimate dilemma, Moon has to make a choice: does he take the money and ignore his responsibility for the girl's death? Or confess?
But before he has a chance to decide, Moon finds himself on the run, pursued by those who think the money is theirs. Men who don't care about right and wrong and who want only one thing from John Moon: his body, face down in a ditch.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A Single Shot by Matthew F. Jones is by far one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. It is a fast-paced and gritty and everything noir fiction should be. Split into seven chapters corresponding to the seven days of the week, readers get an accurate idea of exactly how one man breaks down after making a split-second mistake and how no matter what he does, nothing helps him make up for it.
“John looks down at the coffee-soaked patch of sunburned grass at his feet, thinking how, from the single pull of a shotgun’s trigger, the world’s turned upside down.” page 70
John Moon’s wife is gone, and she took his son. He is without work, has no money, and lives alone in a little trailer deep in the mountains. One day Moon decides to go poaching for food. He shoots and kills a young girl when he mistakes her for a deer. In searching her campsite, he finds a very large sum of money hidden among her things. Stricken with guilt, he hides the body and takes the money as he tries to figure out what to do. Soon Moon realizes that someone knows what he did and will stop at nothing to take the money from him. The events that happen over the week following the shooting are unbelievable and harrowing but kept me on the edge of my seat.
“He wonders if in the morning the sun will shine everywhere but on the trailer, and in that sliver of darkness the world will see what awful secrets he is hiding.” page 112
I love the way protagonist’s character is written. John Moon has a dialogue that is backwoodsy, but despite the way he sounds, he has a lot of intelligence and smarts on the inside. He very clearly loves his wife and son. I feel sorry for him in that I wanted him to get up and make his life better so he could get his family back: clean up, get a job, that sort of thing. But Moon made a poor decision that led to a split-second mistake that cannot be undone. The more Moon tries to think his way out of his problem, the more it consumes him. He eventually almost loses touch with reality even to the point that he carries on conversations with his victim.
“He tells her he is sorry he shot her and that most of the time he believes it was an accident but occasionally, when he thinks about how angry the world sometimes makes him and how little he seems able to change things, he’s afraid it wasn’t.” page 110
The supporting cast of secondary characters is a mixed and interesting bunch, and I enjoyed them so much. They are written well and seem so true-to-life. If I had any wish to make about this book, I would wish to know a little bit more about some of them. For example, the villains are really, really bad–almost scary–so I think it would be a little more interesting to throw in a little more of their back story.
And…nature itself is quite a character in the story. Much of the action takes place outdoors, and the author seems to have penned the setting with ease. I was able to create the scene in my mind, perfectly I think, even hearing the sounds of the forest and smelling the trees and brush. As a reader I can appreciate this so much, given the subject of this story, because at certain times the setting, with its serenity and isolation and beauty, was what gave the story some beauty.
All-in-all, this book is not like most of the books that I read. It’s a wonderfully written and artful noir fiction piece that is a bit hardboiled at times. The constant and blaring grit and rawness reminds me of the movie Deliverance. If you are a reader that has a weak stomach or is easily offended, this is not the book for you. If you are a reader who prefers romance novels and paranormal fantasies, you might want to pass this one up. However, if you are in the mood for something a little bit different and you don’t mind some violence, I suggest giving this book a try. If you are a man and you want to read a man’s book, here’s my suggestion. If you are asking me for one of my favorite books of 2011, pick up A Single Shot. But be ready, it is a gripping page-turner for sure. It is brilliant.
Wow! This sounds like a great read and, like you said, similar to Back Roads in its dark themes! I'm definitely going to check this one out after I've read a few happier titles 🙂
Have a great weekend!