A Single Shot

Matthew Jones, Author
Matthew Jones, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $22 (0p) ISBN 978-0-374-26465-9
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While perhaps too nihilistic for the commercial mainstream, this harrowing, high-voltage thriller ought to bring Jones (The Elements of Hitting) the wide recognition that eluded his two previous novels. A gritty, claustrophobic blend of Jim Thompson and James Dickey, it depicts the seven-day ordeal of a backwoods poacher who accidentally shoots a runaway girl. Set in an unnamed, seedy, mountain town, the novel opens as reclusive John Moon, whose wife and young son have recently left, hunts a buck into a canyon in the state preserve adjacent to his trailer home (which sits on farmland repossessed from his family by the bank some years before). There he fires a shot into a thicket, killing not the buck but teenage Ingrid Banes, who is hiding out with a cache of $100,000. In a panic, Moon stashes the body and takes the cash, hoping to facilitate a reconciliation with his wife, only to find it's the property of Banes's sadistic boyfriend, Waylon, and his psychopathic partner, ""the Hen,"" who's linked to an unsolved local torture/murder case. Moon's hardscrabble world then begins to implode: Banes's body resurfaces, and resurfaces; overwhelmed with guilt, Moon decides to give her a proper burial, as Waylon and the Hen close in. With great economy, surprising pathos and a keen sense of the grotesque, Jones weaves this story toward a shocking showdown in the forest. (Apr.)
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