Book Review: Hell Chose Me by Angel Luis Colón
In Angel Luis Colón’s novel, Hell Chose Me, Bryan Walsh is a killer for hire. He is haunted by those who have fallen at his hand, but he will stop at nothing to avenge his brother’s death.
Are you bored with your current read? Do you need something that will give you a good, hard, extremely swift kick in the pants? Angel Luis Colón has you covered with his crackling latest. The title, Hell Chose Me, should give you a bit of a clue about what you’re in for. Bryan Shea, who narrates, is not a nice guy. Well, he’s not a mean guy, either. It’s complicated . . . He’s a Bronx-based assassin and Marine deserter who is physically and existentially tired of his job. Actually, assassin is probably too glamorous a term for Bryan. He works for a corpulent bullshitter named Paulie who runs a daycare (!) as a front, and he’s not living the high life off his kills. What he is living with is the ghosts of those he helps to shuffle off this mortal coil. They appear to him immediately after their demise, and they’re not pretty.
Charlie gets in my face. There should be noises coming out of him. I keep moving and he passes through me. He goes slack-jawed and stutters: “Fuck…” He bucks forward—the same way he did when I pulled the trigger before—and snaps back into focus as if nothing happened. His wounds knit back together and tear apart fresh. The amount this bastard’s bled, he’d have filled a bathtub by now.
No fun, but Bryan’s got bills to pay. The most important of which is for the care of his brother Liam, who has been in care for two years since a diabetic stroke put him in a coma. It’s no life for Liam, and Bryan knows it, but he can’t stand to pull the plug. For Bryan, letting Liam go would shine a light on every one of his failures, of which there are many. Oh, so many. So, Bryan kills people that don’t pay their debts and collects his pay, which barely covers the cost of Liam’s care and his own meager cost of living. Paulie wants Bryan to take on another gig. Bryan’s not so sure, but desperation can cause you to make some questionable decisions though, right? This job happens to be taking out a hooker named Cherry who ran her mouth one time too many. It’s messy and there’s collateral damage. It turns out that someone Bryan (sort of) trusted has put out a hit on him, and now he’s on the run. He’s used to flinging bullets, not dodging them—now he’s going to have to bring every bit of extra firepower to this rumble. Luckily, he’ll have help from a few less than savory, but very capable folks, including a pair of lethal Palestinian sisters, Hannah and Ayah, the latter of which has a wicked retractable blade in place of her left hand.
But back to those ghosts. Are they real or is Bryan suffering from delusions? We never truly know, and I like that uncertainty. After all, Bryan was active during The Troubles in Ireland, and the things he did there . . . well, they’d damage anyone with a semblance of a conscience. And Bryan does have one—it’s just not like yours, or mine. He occupies a space firmly in the gray, and that’s where his ghosts hang out.
Colón is such a talent. It’s hard to make someone like Bryan sympathetic, but dammit, he nails it. For some reason, by the oddly hopeful end, you’ll want to know this guy, even if you might want to keep your distance, especially when the bullets start flying. And boy do they. The author’s gift for imagery is on full display in Hell Chose Me, and more than a few hints of horror sneak into the writing—if Colón ever decides to write a full-fledged horror novel, I’ll be the first in line to pick up a copy.
This action-packed tale goes down like a stout shot of whiskey and it’s a great intro to Colón’s work. Don’t miss it.