A Single Shot, by Matthew F. Jones [originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, 9/20/2011]

A Single Shot

by Matthew F. Jones

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John Moon is a likable, “good-looking guy… gentle and with a good sense of humor” whose late father owned, and lost to the bank, a large farm. John managed to buy enough of it back to house his trailer, in full view of his lost inheritance. This is not all John has lost: his beloved wife, Moira, has taken their son and left him to forge her own future, training as a teacher. John–for all his good qualities–is perhaps not the sharpest knife in the block, but he does manage to eke out a living pouring tarmac and hunting for his meat. A Single Shot chronicles one week in John’s life, starting with tracking a 12-point buck in the woods near his cabin. He hears a twig snap, sees a flash of brown-and-white behind a bush, fires a shot–and then sees the buck leaping away in another direction. He has killed a teenage girl.

The reader is led from one harrowing choice John makes to the next, as predetermined, John realizes, as a row of falling dominoes–and as impossible to stop. In geometry, the most crucial part of a drawing is the initial line; any error here, even the smallest, and the end result is a hideous deformity of the original shape. This is what happens with John’s life. A Single Shot is a welcome reissue, with Reading Club notes, of the original 1996 edition by Matthew F. Jones (Deepwater). The author’s skillful plotting and writing, reminiscent of Hemingway, make the book impossible to put down; it’s a classic in modern suspense writing. —Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard books, and blogger at Still Working for Books

Discover: The inevitable unwinding of a life from one critical mistake in judgment to its shocking conclusion.

Mulholland Books, $14.99 trade paper, 9780316196703

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