Peter Hurd’s Xolo is a compelling, contemporary horror novel about a businessman who brings a dog to his family after a trip to Mexico—with unforeseen consequences.
Set largely in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in a new community south of Denver, the story begins with real estate developer Derek Rains in Mexico listening to a pitch from Mexican-American businessman Hector Ramirez, who is hoping to purchase and develop 100 acres that Rains recently acquired in Sonora.
Desperately wanting the property, Ramirez plies Rains with gifts—including an enormous hairless dog he bought from a street vendor. The Xoloitzcuintli—Mexico’s national dog—were revered by the ancient Aztecs as guardians of the underworld, but when Rains returns home with the bizarre-looking pet, his wife Alison, an aspiring writer, is far from happy. And after the dog bites their son Max after the boy abuses it, Rains is forced to get rid of the strange animal with the unsettling, intelligent eyes.
The local pound refuses the animal, so Rains decides to let the creature go on the side of a road, hoping it can survive in the wild. The Xolo, however, is much more than it seems, and the dog soon creates its own killer pack of forgotten and abused canines.
Powered by an unapologetically gory and violent narrative, breakneck pacing, and an innate understanding of horror tropes and expectations (the Halloween party in the creepy old house, for example, is spot on), the story has a cinematic vibe; it reads like a screenplay, moving from one memorable scene to the next. The author also attempts added depth by referencing scenes from Alison’s work in progress, which parallels her and her husband’s lives in tone and intensity. This analogy initially works well but is subsequently all but forgotten until the novel’s epilogue.
Nonetheless, hardcore horror fans should find this blood-splattered novel highly satisfying: Stephen King’s Cujo meets Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.