Those who’ve followed Angel Luis Colón’s writing over the years know he’s not afraid to roll up his authorial sleeves and explore some dark territory. His short stories and novellas have earned him both a loyal following as well as numerous major award nominations, including the Derringer and the Anthony, and for good reason. In Hell Chose Me, his first full-length novel, Colón invites readers to buckle up and trust him for another, more extensive ride. And man is it worth it.
Using a framework that is not itself new, Colón nevertheless manages to find fresh angles to explore, all through a lens of unflinching, unsentimental truth. Bryan is not a Hollywood hit man with a heart of gold, nor is he an emotionless, stone-cold killer. He is fully aware of how screwed up his life is in every aspect, which makes him aware of both how horrible a person is, as well as how much he has thrown away by making the wrong choice at so many crucial crossroads in his life. He’s mostly resigned to that, and it’s only as things progress and his hand is forced that he realizes that though he can’t change the past, perhaps he can forge a future better than he’d always assumed he was doomed to inhabit.
Using the sparing, yet elegant, prose he is known for, Colón uses Bryan to examine how feelings of obligation combined with toxic relationships, especially when both spring from familial ties, can warp not just a person’s outlook, but arguably fundamentally warp the person himself. Through Bryan’s journey, Colón asks who’s to blame for the resulting reprehensible person. Or is no one to blame, some things just preordained, an unalterable fate to be accepted and dealt with? The question may be easy, but the answer is anything but.
If you’re new to Colón’s writing, Hell Chose Me is the perfect place to jump in and see what you’ve been missing, while readers who’ve been along for the ride since the beginning will delight in seeing Colón stretch out and run for distance this go round. They’ll also be treated to a nice literary Easter egg in the form of one of Colón’s previous characters popping up unexpectedly, but most welcome.
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.
Ok honestly the title really had me curious. What was so surprising to me though was the depth of emotion, despair, anger, and surprises within this book. I did not expect to find such intensity within this book, but after reading it the title does a little more than just make sense. What happens when your past catches up to you and it ends up not hurting you but someone in your life? This is a story that tells just that. Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this book.
Bryan Walsh is haunted-literally-by those he has eliminated in his capacity as a hired enforcer, first for his uncle in the IRA and then for an organized crime syndicate in the Bronx. Angel Luis Colon’s novel Hell Chose Me is narrated by this mercenary whose conscience is manifested in the shadows that follow him as reminders of his wrongdoings. A wanted man and a deserter from the Marines, Bryan rationalizes his actions since he needs to financially support the care of his brother, who is in a coma. As the story progresses, Bryan discovers that he has been framed and betrayed by those closest to him. He attempts to enact revenge while distracted by the increasing number of ghosts that constantly demand his attention. Bryan’s loyalty and sanity are tested, especially when he is forced make some ultimate sacrifices. Hell Chose Me would be a fitting selection for readers who relish cinematic action scenes and are not squeamish about graphic depictions of violence.
Thanks to the author, NetGalley and Down and Out Books for an ARC of this title in exchange for an unbiased review.
This is a strange take on what makes us the person we are today. Written from the first person perspective Bryan Walsh. His life is one of failure. Overwhelmed by strained relationships, guilt that his brother lies in a comma and not enough money to pay for his medical care.
The present reality is shared with historical memories how he got into this mess and lost his way.
The biggest influence on his life was his Grandpa and when he died unexpectedly in a motor car accident Bryan lost his way. He almost immediately enlists to fight but a form of PTSD leaves him broken and unable to cope.
He calls his Uncle Sean for help but finds himself in great need of help and in debt he struggles to pay back.
Within the present he recognises his poor choices. His mental health remains a concern but fails to seek medical support and his odd job status has lost its appeal as he has become a contract killer. He passes it off as a job and he feels his targets deserve their end due to their own bad decisions. He does not recognise his own hypocrisy or troubled mind as recent victims share his consciousness after every hit.
I found it a unique slant on this type of story. Although interesting ideas and characters populate the novel I found it less than cohesive and one struggles with the rationale of this troubled narrative.
I guess it is a journey to one’s self but even though the story commends your attention and readers invest their time into Walsh’s direction of travel. I am not sure if I intimately cared whether he lives or dies, finds enlightenment or fades away.
A terrific project that is groundbreaking and bold in its conception but lost me somewhere along the way.
Hell Chose Me, Angel Luis Colón's debut novella, is a thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and unique read. The main character, hitman Bryan Walsh, is fascinating and despite his unsavoury job description you can't help but root for him; he's a killer with a conscience if you will. A lot of attention is paid to developing him layer by layer, and it's exquisitely done. The minor characters such as Bryan's family and his victims are also complex and well drawn. Not only is Walsh multilayered, the plot is too, and you can't help but be intrigued as the different threads come together in surprising ways.
The paranormal aspect of the plot is very original; Bryan continually being haunted by the souls of those he's killed and adds an extra dimension to the story. It's well written and really easy to immerse yourself in amongst the words. The author has a sound understanding of how to create characters that are intricately crafted with many different personality traits but still full of humanity. This is a solid debut, and I look forward to reading more of Colón's work in the future.
Many thanks to Down & Out Books for an ARC.
“We all suffer, fight, and scratch for our last moments in any existence to be an echo.”*
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Bryan Walsh barely makes a living as hit man. All his cash goes into paying his brother’s mounting medical bills. Each time Bryan slays a mark, he’s haunted by guilt in the form of the person’s ghost, transforming his emotional baggage into an otherworldly entourage. One of his jobs goes sideways and he must revisit all the terrible decisions that led him to his towering list of regrets. If he can’t make peace with his past, he’ll have little chance at a future.
Bryan makes a great character. Sure he’s a murderer, but each of his nefarious acts are the result of him trying to do the right thing based on his own skewed world view. Even his acquisition of roommate Earl, shows Bryan’s many layers. The other characters are similarly well drawn from Bryan’s victims to his family members and his associates. Each person who steps onto the page is complex and achingly human. Bryan’s relationships with them are complicated. He judges everyone harshly, but with no less pessimism than he judges himself.
This is the first book I’ve read by Angel Luis Colón. I can’t wait to get acquainted with his other works.
Thanks to NetGalley and Down & Out Books for the opportunity to experience this novel in advance of its release.
*Please note that my review is based on uncorrected text.
A good book. Throughly enjoyed reading this book,
Writing style is great, plot and characters are also strong.
Thank you to both NetGalley and Down and Out Books for my eARC in exchange for my honest unbiased review
Hell Chose Me features a manic killer for hire haunted by the spirits of his victims. And he's really haunted cause they could turn up in the passenger's seat or in the shower or just about anywhere else. Think of Bryan Walsh's world as some kind of twisted Sixth Sense where the ghosts are just as real as flesh and blood. But, it's a bit more distracting talking to ghosts when you are a killer for hire who has to be alert and on guard at all times.
The street smart narrative voice makes this short novel sing as it takes you from the deserts of Iraq to the Irish troubles and back to the Bronx. Colon does a great job of really fleshing out this character and his background from crazy pig butchering stories to Gulf War battles to shootouts and betrayals and distrust. You've probably never met a hitman like Walsh, but then again you've probably not met too many hitmen and survived to talk about it.
The plain cover and simple title only hint at what's inside this crime fiction tale. Many thanks to Down & Out Books for providing a copy for review.