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Book Cover Image: A Single Shot by Matthew F. JonesTitle: A Single Shot

Author: Matthew F. Jones

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):

“John Moon lives alone in a trailer on the land that was his family’s farm until the bank foreclosed on it. Out hunting deer one morning, he hears the rustle of branches and fires a single shot–only to discover that he has killed a teenage girl. Horrified, Moon tries to cover up his tragic mistake, and find out who the girl was. Fear, guilt, and obsession leads him to unearth a shocking pattern of evil involving the residents of the town–and before long all the plots have converged on him.”

Thoughts: A Single Shot is a novel that is deceptively simple and beautiful in its pathos. Matthew F. Jones forces the reader to imagine John Moon’s guilt-laden sufferings while highlighting his fear-driven actions and reactions to events. Because of this, however, the reader is torn between sympathy and repugnance over John’s actions after the accident. While the reader understands that John is just trying to gain back some semblance of a normal life, his actions are questionable. Would the end results be different had he made different, and better, choices? The answer is for the reader to decide.

Mr. Jones’ writing is as understatedly complex as the plot. Each phrase chosen only scratches the surface of the emotional upheaval Moon is experiencing. The full depth of John’s suffering is left to the reader’s imaginings. Countering this is the detailed, almost sensuous, descriptions of the woods and hills where John is happiest. The result is a novel that is evocatively rich in imagery and passion but still leaves plenty for the reader to imagine for oneself.

Garnering comparisons to Crime and Punishment or even The Tell-Tale Heart, A Single Shot is a psychological thriller of the best kind. John Moon is proof that the guilty conscience is a powerful weapon indeed. While John’s cautionary tale may be a bit extreme, it does highlight just how much a person’s life can change in one single instant.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to NetGalley and Wes Miller of Mulholland Books for my e-galley!

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