A Single Shot is a taught thriller that drags you along in the emotional wake of John Moon’s guilt and necessity. Early on the plot put me in mind of Cormac McCarthy’s, No Country For Old Men, but as the story progresses it is soon plain to see that John Moon is more than just a cut and paste rehash of McCarthy’s, Llewlyn Moss. Moon is a man with a strong set of beliefs, he has his own code. But his downward spiral started long before he pulled the trigger and in the best traditions of noir no matter how hard he tries, his subsequent actions only seem to hasten that decent.
Make no mistake this is a gritty and harrowing novel that deals with some pretty dark subject matter. The narrative is largely well paced and genuinely engaging, but it does suffer from occasional unexplained flat spots, which can leave you feeling a little puzzled, like finding a few feet of smooth blacktop in the middle of a rutted farm track. This minor grumble is more than made up for by Jones’ wonderfully authentic dialogue and his strong sense of place.
I fear that many of those lured in by Daniel Woodrell’s curious and at times almost disparaging introduction will have their resolve sorely tested by the disturbing nature of A Single Shot. The violence and the graphic sexual scenes will no doubt alienate a lot of casual readers.
While A Single Shot may never be a book that is clutched lovingly to the breast of mainstream country noir, if you are an aficionado of the genre it is a book that you won’t want to miss. I found it to be a well written and thought provoking read.
Thanks to my buddy, Brian Panowich for turning me on to this one.