A Single Shot by Matthew F. Jones

A Single Shot by Matthew F. Jones

Anyone’s life can change in an instant. In Matthew F. Jones’s acclaimed novel, one man’s world is overturned with a single shot.

Trespassing on what was once his family’s land, John Moon hears a rustle in the brush and fires. But instead of the deer he was expecting, he finds the body of a young woman, killed by his stray bullet. A terrible dilemma is made worse when he stumbles upon her campground – and the piles of drugs and money concealed there.

Moon makes his choice: he hides the corpse, and takes the cash. His decision will have consequences he can neither predict or control.

Originally published in 1996, A Single Shot by author Matthew F Jones is proof, if ever it was required, that Mulholland Books are on the right track. Still in its infancy, the publisher – part of the Hodder & Stoughton stable in the UK – continues its fine publication record with another intriguing and dark title.

Billed as a classic Noir novel, A Single Shot is one of those titles you find yourself asking one simple question throughout – what would I do?. Set over a period of one week the premise for A Single Shot is simple; a man named John Moon is out hunting – illegally I may add – and finding a deer in his sights releases the safety catch on his shotgun and takes his shot. He wounds the animal and as he approaches his kill discovers the deer has escaped leaving a bloodied trail and so begins a week of decisions that will, one way or another, have a lasting effect on a number of people. Moon decides to track the deer rather than leave it to die an agonising death – quite a noble decision – but this is about as far as noble and clear thinking goes.

Moon finally tracks the wounded animal and spots movement in the brush. A mass of brown and white makes a sudden movement and with the safety catch off he takes another shot. The mass immediately falls to the ground but is hidden by the dense foliage. Lowering his gun he hears movement behind him and as he turns the wounded deer he thought dead attacks. So what happened? Who or what did he shoot?

Incredibly dark, and at times depressingly so, you follow Moon as he makes one bad decision after another. There’s very little light and shade in this book – intensely bleak Moon is an accident waiting to happen. As simple as walking left or right, moving an object one way or another or taking something that clearly doesn’t belong to him, even the most simplistic decision proves to have a catastrophic reaction.

The narrative is beautiful, somewhat surprising for a book of its type, and I found myself mesmerised by a combination of elegant and well-structured prose and a man on a mission to make things right. John Moon as a character is enigmatic, a veritable puzzle you, as a reader, want to explore and dissect. Incredibly complex and dare I say moralistic he believes he’s making the right decision throughout and only time will tell if he does indeed find himself on the right path and redemption.

Intelligently written, the book flows well and with an ending that is both shocking and unexpected, I enjoyed every minute despite its bleak subject. Throughout it all Moon believes he is doing the right thing but for who? For himself, the deer or his family? As each decision takes a profound hold over his life he tries even harder to counteract the mess he finds himself in and continues to fight an enveloping quicksand of morality and greed.

Published by Mulholland Books A Single Shot is available in paperback and kindle.

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