John Moon is a dude with bad luck. His dad lost the farm before his time. His wife left with his kid. And while he’s out poaching on someone else’s land tracking a wounded deer, he shoots something rustling in the bushes: a girl, a young one. And it seems she wasn’t alone. John finds tens of thousands of dollars in cash wadded next to a sleeping bag, a teddy bear, and a photograph. As John frantically tries to undo the damage of that one shot, he realizes the girl’s companion won’t stop until he hunts down John..and the money.
A Single Shot has such a simple premise: down-on-his-luck guy makes a bad mistake, finds money, goes on the run… Except John Moon doesn’t run. He stays right where he is, in his trailer in the mountains. Why? Because it’s his land, and a man doesn’t leave his land, even if it technically isn’t his anymore. And as the town becomes more and more claustrophobic and the evidence of his mistake mounts, John is in terrible danger.
This book scared the crap out of me. I mean, you guys know I’m a scaredy cat already, but this book was petrifying because I live near backwoods towns like this one, and every brutality, every threat of violence is so real.
With books like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which scared me like crazy), you know there are sickos out there like that, but it seems a little…outlandish. A Single Shot? There’s probably dudes like this all over the place. They’ve probably sat in my classroom. Backwoods guys – they know how to work a hunting knife. Need I say more? This book had my palms sweating and raised my heartbeat, too. It just doesn’t stop. It’s graphic and dirty, and I felt like I needed a shower for much of it, but I also couldn’t help but root for John.
In his own way, he tries to make good out of the bad. At times, Jones seemed to be making him out as a smart guy (or smarter than he’s given credit for), and he’s not that. I mean, he doesn’t go to the cops about the girl. He doesn’t leave the money. He doesn’t warn his ex-wife to take the baby and run. I think, more than anything, though, it’s because of his guilt. It stymies him, and he absolutely has no idea how to get out of it. So you sit, and you watch it play out, and when it ends, it’s not redemptive. But Jones doesn’t insult your intelligence as a reader. The book ends the way it should because the bad guys are bad guys. The good guys, well, they aren’t so good. And no one has an out.
Read this: if you like Cormac McCarthy. Or stories of guilt. Or thrillers.