August 12, 1996 12:00 PM

by Matthew F. Jones

Poacher John Moon is trying to bag a buck at the start of this taut novel when, with one blast from his 12-gauge shotgun, his whole world is shattered. Instead of the deer, he kills a 16-year-old girl. And not just any teen, but a runaway whose possessions include a strongbox with more money than he’s seen in his entire hardscrabble existence.

The stunned Moon hides his victim’s body and makes off with the stash—which he hopes will somehow help win back his wife, Moira, who recently split with their infant son. Instead it sets in motion a backwoods drama that is part Crime and Punishment, part Deliverance and all white-knuckled suspense.

Make no mistake, this third outing by the Charlottesville, Va., writer, whose previous work, Cotter Farm, also veered into the gothic, isn’t the sanitized, cartoon action of so many thrillers. Shot is dripping with the ripe smells of sweat, fear and death. Like a slug of moonshine, it may not go down easy—but it packs a helluva punch. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $22)

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