A Single Shot Review
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As the seasons change, so do entertainment styles. Just like summer is a time of flashy, fast-paced movies, it’s also a time for fast-moving, beach-worthy reads. When the temperatures start dropping, then, movie theaters are filled with laid-back dramas, and readers start looking for the kind of slow, thoughtful novels that seem to pair perfectly with a cozy blanket and a crackling fire—novels like author Matthew F. Jones’s A Single Shot

Before dawn on a Sunday morning, John Moon decides to get up and do some hunting. Sure, it’s illegal to shoot a deer in the woods out on the mountain at this time of the year, but he has a wife and child to feed—a wife and child who no longer live with him—and he needs to prove that he can provide for them.

John tracks the perfect buck, but after he takes his shot, he discovers that he wasn’t alone in the woods. A young girl had been hidden there—with a few belongings and a whole lot of cash—and his shot killed her.

John takes the cash and tries to cover up the accident, but he finds himself haunted by the dead girl—and tracked by men who will do anything to get the money back.

Set in the mountains, forests, and small towns of rural New York, A Single Shot is a quietly gripping drama, with slowly building suspense that’s made all the more maddening by the story’s solitary setting.

Jones skillfully paints a picture of John Moon’s natural isolation. With his wife and son gone, he lives alone in a trailer on the mountain where he grew up. He has just one neighboring family: the Nobies, who bought his father’s farm. Aside from John and the Nobies, though, the mountain is deserted—and, as you read, you’ll be able to feel the silence that closes in on John as he tries to figure out what he should do.

A Single Shot is a short book, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a quick read. The story is haunting and deliberately paced—but, like John, you’ll have to do a lot of waiting as the story’s quiet suspense gradually builds. Throughout this seven-day journey, not a whole lot happens. John meets with his lawyer. He goes to work (then quits his job). He tries to see his son. He talks to his neighbor. He’s visited by an old friend. Yet the dead girl and the money are always there, in the background. And as the week unfolds, you’ll grow to understand his fears, his desperation, and his paranoia. He’s not exactly a law-abiding citizen; after all, his poaching got him into this mess. But he has the best of intentions: he just wants to take care of his family. Now his whole life is hanging in the balance, and it’ll all fall apart if anyone finds out about the girl.

If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced thriller, you’ll want to look elsewhere. But if you want to curl up on the couch with some haunting, character-driven suspense, you’ll want to pick up a fireside fall read like A Single Shot.

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