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Reviewed by Richard L DeMoss for Readers' Favorite
Iron Dogs by Neil Chase is a western horror novel set in 1873 in the small town of Testament, New Mexico. The story opens in Testament with Father Ramon Bernal aiding a member of his parish and staying too long until the sun sets. The town has been taken over by an ancient evil that has decimated the place and left everyone in paralyzing fear. He makes it back to the mission, but knows the evil is coming for him and barricades himself inside the church to await his fate. The story shifts to a group of six hunted outlaws on the run from the Pinkertons and the US army in Texas. Led by Frank Hollister, the group is comprised of Cole Masters, Red Coogan, Virgil Morgan, Billy Cross, and Ivan Larianov, and they are being pursued after a botched bank job. An ambush of the pursuers temporarily stalls the pursuit, but Virgil is badly injured. Looking for a place to rest and regroup, they travel eight days across Texas, Arizona, and into New Mexico. Cole has been to Testament and has convinced them this is a good place to lay low for a while.
Before they get to the town, they must traverse a group of crazed, starving people in the hills above the town. When they finally get there, they find the town completely deserted and without water, being observed from the hills by a group of Apache Mescaleros. Chase then spins the rest of his story as the men slowly find out what has happened, and what they are up against. A creature, known as the Strigoi, has arisen and taken over the town. As they learn about it, the Strigoi hunts them and starts thinning their ranks. All in the space of one day, they must learn how to kill the creature before the sun sets, otherwise they will all be dead before morning. The tension mounts until the final showdown, just as the sun is setting, to determine whether good will prevail or evil will triumph.
Iron Dogs is one of the best horror novels I have ever read. Neil Chase masterfully unfolds his tale and keeps the reader riveted and eagerly awaiting for the story to further unfold. As the day progresses, he takes you into the past of each character and lets you know the trials and horrors each has faced, and how they all have come together at this moment in time. He lets you know what drives them, what their fears are, and why they are willing to stand together and fight a devil's spawn that they find out is virtually indestructible. The final confrontation leaves you breathless and you discover whether loyalty to one's friends or the destruction of the evil will win out. Iron Dogs is so well written and artfully crafted. Everything fits together and you are left wanting more. I look forward to hopefully reading the next novel by this talented author.