Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Death on Skid Row

by Bonnie Kozek

Available from

Only in her mid-twenties, Honey McGuiness is already an old soul who seems to have lived a life twice as long. A self-described loner and outsider with no connections and no meaningful relationships, she hides from life in a self-imposed exile from society in Los Angeles' Skid Row, wallowing in the gutter along with the rest of the damaged persons. Of course, Honey is not like them; she could be somebody, as one of the other characters insists, but Honey neither believes that, nor does she want to hear it from anyone. There is something dark in Honey's past, something that she's not yet ready to accept and deal with, and that something is killing her chances at life and living.

Honey is not completely isolated, however. There is one person in the world of the homeless that she has a thing for. Not that this thing could ever be anything other than it is, a simple a connection that's pretty special to Honey's jaded self. Billy himself isn't much. For one thing, he is blissfully unaware of the world around him, including Honey's attention. And he communicates in seemingly random rhymes out of the words that he hears around him, like a parrot. But there seems to be something innocent about Billy, something genuine, something that draws Honey. Billy is the only person she cares about.

Working at the urban mission, living in a building targeted by developers, and Billy seem to be the building blocks of Honey's new life in hiding. But Honey's skid row honeymoon from reality is shattered when Billy is shot by unknown assassins. Dying in her arms, he whispers “mother.”

Shattered by the death of her simple friend and thirsting for vengence, Honey launches on an all out, one-woman investigation into Billy's death. That a recording device was strapped to Billy leads Honey to suspect that Billy was being used by the police, a turn of events that she finds particularly upsetting for how the system had used Billy's innocence.

In her quest to get even with the slimy players responsible, Honey encounters the last boyscout, an idealistic cop who still lives by long-gone values of right and wrong, joining the force in order to do some good. The two become close, ersatz partners, each on an idiosynchratic quest for justice. In order to turn up some leads into Billy's death, Honey herself must descend into the local drug scene. The first real contact she meets is Abel, the street boss and drug dealer with an unlikely conscience. But is this the same man whose name is mentioned on the tape she recovered from the recorder on Billy's body? Through Abel she meets another player in the drug scene, Mr. V. But Honey is treading in dangerous waters, for Mr. V knows far more than Honey suspects, and before she knows it her world erupts with violence.

Threshold is stellar writing, a work populated with complex characters, and a story with a hypnotic narrative pull. And Bonnie Kozek is a talent to watch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too read Threshold and it is extraordinary. A great piece of American literature.