Book Review: Baxter by Jessica Hamilton

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Title: Baxter

Author: Jessica Hamilton

Number of Pages: 144

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes


I watched the French film adaptation of this out-of-print horror novel a few years ago, and soon afterwards I spent a hefty price for a used copy online. Despite the amount of money I spent on it, it sat unread on my shelf for a pretty long time. Baxter is a novel with a highly unusual protagonist (anti-hero?)- a hyper-intelligent bull terrier who almost entirely lacks a conscience. Baxter is unhappy with the elderly woman to whom he is given as a gift by her daughter, and he is obsessed with acquiring the young couple next door as his new owners.


After deciding to get rid of the old lady once and for all, Baxter trips her down a set of stairs and kills her, although his future without her is uncertain at best. Baxter goes from owner to owner, until he falls into the cruel hands of a young psychopath and white supremacist. What happens past that point is certainly not good, despite Baxter and the boy’s initial connection. Baxter is way better than you would ever expect a novel about an evil dog to be. The murderous canine narrates parts of the story, and the rest is in third-person primarily focusing on the human characters.


Baxter himself ultimately doesn’t seem like that disturbing a character compared to  the humans he’s surrounded with. Overall they are uncaring, profoundly misanthropic, and almost entirely devoid of compassion. However, as unsettling as the people in this book  were, I also found their thoughts and motivations oddly believable. I felt that they were more plausible than their counterparts in the film adaptation, which perhaps lacked some much-needed context that was present in the book.


Most of the characters are unlikable in a relatively subtle way, with one of the notable exceptions being the young Neo-Nazi, Carl. I wanted to punch that kid in the face, it’s hard to believe that this book would have a character more fucked-up than Baxter and then that kid comes along. I was actually slightly surprised by how well-written this book was and the pacing was really good. I was never bored, even though I had already watched the movie so knew a lot of what was going to happen.


Although I recommend Baxter to people with a taste for disturbing and offbeat fiction, people who are sensitive to stories that feature animal cruelty should probably steer clear of this novel. I’m a dog lover and several scenes in this book made me cringe. It’s not the most disturbing novel I’ve read in my life- or even this year, for that matter- but there is something about it that is legitimately unsettling, maybe because aside from the evil dog there’s something that feels oddly real about it.


The characters feel like somebody you might actually meet in real life, and it’s their feeling of ordinariness combined with their lack of redeeming qualities that makes them especially disturbing. I’ve never read anything quite like Baxter, and I think both the book and the film are worth checking out,. Although finding a print copy of this was a huge chore, I’m glad I ended up reading it.




6 thoughts on “Book Review: Baxter by Jessica Hamilton

    1. Actually, this book is apparently available on Kindle under the title “Hell Hound” by Ken Greenhall (‘Jessica Hamilton’ is a pseudonym, though I’m not sure why a male author would choose to go by a female name.) People who want to read it can get it for $6.99. I wish this option had been available when I bought a used copy for $40! 😛


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