Threshold is a gritty little novel, definitely an in your face piece of writing, and a work that I greatly enjoyed. A mystery amidst the misery of skid row. What I was particularly impressed with was the amazingly accurate portrayal of life on the streets, the mental health issues that go untreated, the grime, and the ever present drugs. Although the setting in Threshold is Los Angeles this type of situation exists in every large city.
Having spent six years of my life working with an inner city homeless population, I have seen the real backdrop for Threshold with my own eyes. Even the way Bonnie Kozek describes the drug dealing is accurate, buyers, sellers, runners, lookouts. And drug users, so desperate for a hit they will steal, prostitute themselves, basically do anything for that 10 minute high.
On with the plot!
Our anti-heroine is Honey McGuinness, age unknown, but likely in her late twenties, a lady with more skeletons in the closet than clothes. Though not actually homeless herself, she finds solace in the anonymity that Skid Row affords. To pay the rent for the nameless space she lives in, part of a defunct factory, she helps out at the local Salvation Army soup kitchen. She is addicted to the concept of addictions, and this life suits her well. Her addictions are however short lived, a 1/5th of cheap liquor a day for a couple of months, three packs a day of cigarettes for a few weeks, drugs a plenty. But nothing sticks. Honey is a lady trying to escape her past.
The street does provide a kind of safety net for Honey. Working in the Salvation Army kitchen she gets to meet many of the regulars, one in particular catches her eye, Billy, maybe under different circumstances they could even have become lovers.Â Billy is not your run of the mill guy, often talking in riddles, or even just endlessly repeating seemingly disconnected words and phrases, he is none the less a person that Honey can relate to.
Hearing what can only be gunshots Honey discovers Billy crumpled on the ground, with horror she discovers blood, lots of it. Talking what is thought to be gibberish he dies in Honey’s arms. She makes an interesting discovery, Billy has a tape recorder strapped to his waist, clearly one that was meant for concealment. One that law enforcement might use, but why would Billy be wired? Billy was hardly stuff that could make for an undercover agent. Who could possibly have wanted to kill this harmless street person and where did the recording device come from, what was its intended purpose?
Should Honey share this information with the police, or should she keep the recorder? Do the police even care that a homeless man has been killed?
To share more of the plot would spoil the story, you will have to read this one for yourself, but I will say this, if you don’t read this book, you are missing out on a wild adventure. As rocker Lou Reed says, ‘Walk on the wild side’.
Threshold makes for a riveting read, I suspect that author Bonnie Kozek has a great and fruitful career ahead of her as a mystery/crime writer. She has done a masterful job on character development with Honey McGuinness, and as I understand it Honey will be returning in the next book.
The most surprising aspect about Bonnie Kozek is her previous endeavors in the literary world, she does have two other books in print, but they are not fiction.Â Falling In and Out of Love . . . with Words, and Mania, a poetry book published in 2003. It seems a strange background, but I really think Bonnie Kozek has found her niche in Threshold. Threshold is an anything goes, a freewheeling adventure into a very murky world. This is an author to watch out for, she is here to stay!