Fear and Suspense in A Single Shot

2668 Words11 Pages
Fear and Suspense in A Single Shot Matthew F. Jones' novel A Single Shot is a disturbing tale of one man's unfortunate mistake and the hellish consequences it brings him. John Moon, in need of money to support his estranged wife Moira and their infant son Nolan, sets out early one morning to hunt an impressive buck he has recently spotted grazing near his mountain home. Having weighed the value of the deer meat against the thousand dollars in fines and two months in jail he can expect to serve if caught shooting the animal out of season on state land, he decides it is worth the risk. This risk, however, proves to be far greater than John anticipates. After he wounds the deer, chases it several miles through dense underbrush, has his shoulder gored, and accidentally shoots sixteen-year-old Ingrid Banes dead before finally killing the buck, John is forced to reevaluate his decision. Having made the leap from small-time poacher to second degree murderer with a single misguided gunshot, John, his life transformed into a delusory state of confusion and guilt, reacts reprehensibly, but similarly to how most decent individuals would likely respond if placed in his dreadful situation. Choosing to hide her body in a small cavern in the quarry, "because burial has a ring of finality to it he can't yet bear" (24), John runs to an abandoned lean-to where the girl and her boyfriend Waylon have been camping, in search of material to build a torch. There, stumbling upon a large metal container full of money that he is unable to resist keeping, he realizes his troubles may have only begun. Indeed, this is true, as in the few short days that follow, he is tormented incessantly by both his own conscience and the men whose money he now possesses. Jones is able to convey this torment, as well as evoke apprehension and suspense, through his expert use of such elements as setting, atmosphere, structure, narrative voice, and, especially, characterization and dramatic action. As the story opens John is embarking on a deer hunt in the early hours of morning. It is before sunrise, still "three-quarters dark" (3), and "it's so quiet in the forest that, even on a soft bed of pine needles, John's footsteps echo in his ears" (4). There is no wind, and as the scene unfolds, birds take flight, and the crows begin to caw.
Open Document