Jaws is a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. It tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon a small resort town, and the voyage of three men to kill it. It was first published in February 1974.
The story is set in Amity, a fictional seaside resort town on Long Island, New York. One night, a young tourist named Christie Watkins skinny dips out in the open waters where she is attacked and killed by a Great White Shark. When her body is found by the police washed up on the beach, it is obvious that she had been attacked by a shark. Police chief Martin Brody orders Amity's beaches closed, but is overruled by mayor Larry Vaughan and the town's selectmen, fearing it would damage the summer tourism on which the town's economy is heavily dependent. With the connivance of Harry Meadows, the editor of the local newspaper, the attack is hushed up.
A few days later, the shark kills a young boy and an old man not far from the shore. A local fisherman, Ben Gardner, is sent out to kill the shark, but disappears out on the water. Brody heads out with his loyal deputy Leonard Hendricks and finds Gardner's boat anchored off-shore, empty, and with large bite marks in the side. Hendricks pulls a massive shark's tooth from one of the holes. Blaming himself for these deaths, Brody again moves to close the beaches, and has Meadows investigate the people Vaughan is in business with to find out why the Mayor is so determined to keep the beaches open. Meadows uncovers his links to members of the Mafia, who are pressuring Vaughan to keep them open in order to protect the value of Amity's real estate, into which they had recently invested a great deal of money. Meadows also brings in ichthyologist Matt Hooper from the Woods Hole Institute to advise them on how to deal with the shark.
Meanwhile, Brody's wife Ellen is dissatisfied with life and misses the affluent life she left behind when she married Brody and had children. She immediately strikes up a friendship with Hooper, especially after learning that he is the younger brother of a man she dated years before. The two have a brief affair in a motel outside of town. Throughout the rest of the novel, Brody suspects they have had a liaison and is haunted by the thought.
With the beaches still open, people begin pouring to the town, hoping to catch a glimpse of the killer shark. Still haunted by the guilt of the previous deaths, Brody sets up patrols on the beach and on the water to watch for the fish. After a boy (dared by his friends to go out into the water, with the promise of ten dollars) narrowly escapes being attacked by the shark close to the shore, Brody finally closes the beaches and hires Quint, a professional shark hunter, to find and kill the fish. Brody, Quint, and Hooper set out on Quint's vessel, the Orca; the trio soon find that they are struggling against each other as well as the shark. Hooper is angered by Quint's methods, which include disemboweling a blue shark they catch and his use of an illegally-fished unborn dolphin for bait. Quint taunts Hooper for refusing to shoot at beer cans with them, which are launched from the Orca at sea with a device similar to a skeet launcher. Brody and Hooper constantly bicker as Brody's suspicions about Hooper's possible affair with Ellen grow stronger. At one point, Brody attempts to strangle Hooper on the deck.
Their first two days at sea are unproductive, and they return to port on each night. On the third day, Hooper reveals to Brody and Quint a shark proof cage that he had shipped from Woods Hole. Initially Quint refuses to allow the cage on the boat, suspecting that it will be useless for protection against this particular fish, but he relents when Hooper offers the captain an extra hundred dollars in cash. Once out on the ocean, after several unsuccessful attempts by Quint to harpoon the shark, Hooper goes underwater in the cage to attempt to kill it with a bang stick. He is so taken with the shark that he resolves to first take photos. However, the shark attacks the cage and, after ramming the bars apart, kills him.
Brody is dispirited and also realizes that there is no more money to pay Quint to continue the hunt, but Quint no longer cares about his fee; he is now obsessed with killing the shark. Meanwhile, Larry Vaughan arrives at the Brody house before Brody himself returns home and informs Ellen that he and his wife are leaving Amity. Before he leaves, he reveals to Ellen that he always thought they would've made a great couple. When Brody and Quint return the following day, the shark repeatedly rams into the boat, and Quint harpoons it three times. The shark leaps onto the stern of the Orca and the boat starts sinking. Quint plunges another harpoon into it, but as it falls back into the water, his foot gets entangled in the rope, and when the shark drags him under, he drowns. Now floating on a seat cushion, Brody spots the shark swimming towards him and shuts his eyes, preparing for death. The shark gets to within a few feet of him before stopping and succumbing to the wounds inflicted by Quint. It sinks down out of sight, its dead body suspended in the water just beyond the light by the barrels attached to it, and with Quint's body still dangling from it. Using the cushion as a makeshift float, Brody starts to paddle back to shore.