Posted in BOOK REVIEWS - THRESHOLD on June 2nd, 2009 by bonniekozekblog

by Ron Fortier


What are the odds I’d end up reviewing two books back to back whose protagonist is named Honey? Which is exactly what happened, but be warned, these ladies are about as different as night and day can be. Read on, MacDuff.

This book kicked me in the teeth. It’s an ugly slice of life few of us ever get to see, or want to for that matter. Which is why turning its pages was like sparring with a heavyweight. Every few scenes you get your jaw rocked and your gut punched. It hurts like hell, but once the literary adrenalin starts juicing, there’s no way you are going to stop. Of course the challenge here is to try and tell you what Bonnie Kozek writes like, when it’s damn near impossible. She’s an original. Imagine what kind of hard boiled fiction Mickey Spillane would have given us if he’d been a she? A sassy, angry, tough, twenty-first century dame with a story to tell. That’s Ms. Kozek.

Honey McGuinness grew up with a suicidal mother who wanted to share eternity with her. Only problem is, mom didn’t want to wait until nature ran its course and opted to punch both their tickets by taking a flying leap off a high-rise. She died, Honey lived. Sex, drugs and a little rock and roll, the girl walked on the wild side until it all became home, one she has no intentions of ever leaving.

“… what was I afraid of? I’d ingested, digested, shoved up my ass, and shot into my bloodstream every kind of consciousness-numbing intoxicant, narcotic, and medication known to man – and whatever I missed in my later years my sick-o mother shoved down my throat in the first sixteen. I was experienced, stoned and beautiful.”

When one of Honey’s homeless friends is gunned down in front of her apartment and left to bleed to death, her bleak, comfy world is shattered. Especially when she finds Billy was wired and the machine tape is still on his body. Was he a helpless pawn of the cops? A patsy sent into the drug flooded streets to be sacrificed to the scum? Honey believed her heart had turned to stone long ago but with Billy’s murder, she realizes, much to her own utter disbelief, that she gives a damn. Then she finds an unlikely ally in a goody-two-shoes rookie cop named Skinner. All of which propels Honey on yet another personal voyage through hell to uncover a truth too many powerful people want hidden permanently.

THRESHOLD is a brutal, take-no-prisoners adult thriller that paints a disturbing, factual picture of a culture most Americans will never know. Thank God for that. Whereas the fact that people do live like this is a crime against all mankind. Bravo to Bonnie Kozek for having the guts to write about it. My only question is, why was this book published by a small, unknown publisher? If any book deserved to be a Hard Case Crime title, it’s this one. They just don’t come any meaner.

note: This review was picked up and ran in INDENVER, Arts & Entertainment Section, beginning June 1st, 2009. INDENVER was started by the editors and journalists who lost their jobs when the Rocky Mountain Press closed its doors.



Posted in BOOK REVIEWS - THRESHOLD on April 22nd, 2009 by bonniekozekblog

by Bonnie Kozek

Available from Amazon.com

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.


Posted in BOOK REVIEWS - THRESHOLD on April 21st, 2009 by bonniekozekblog

Simon Barrett, BloggerNews, Posted on March 12th, 2009

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. 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. 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!

You can get your copy from Amazon, and she also has a web site that is worth a visit.