LAST STOP SUNNYSIDE by Pat Capponi (Harper Collins), 224 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
It's always fun to read a mystery set in your own neighbourhood. But Pat Capponi' s portrayal of my quirky 'hood in Last Stop Sunnyside rankles more than a bit. Capponi' s Parkdale - a bleak dumping ground for the marginalized where there's not a cappuccino to be had and rich homeowners don't set foot on the streets - is clichéd and out of date.
That said, the book, the first in a planned series, kicks off what could be a spunky new addition to the genre.
Amateur sleuth and drop-in centre worker Dana Leoni is just trying to keep it together. But when a fellow resident in her rundown boardinghouse is taken away by strangers and ends up in the lake and the police rule her death a suicide, Leoni and her fellow roomies put their heads together to solve the case.
They're quite the bunch - alcoholics, ex-bikers, schizophrenics and the abandoned elderly - but they clamber over the hurdles of depression and the side effects of meds to avenge their friend's death and prevent others from being victimized.
Herself a psychiatric survivor and tireless advocate for the disenfranchised, Capponi tells the story with compassion. But the writing' s uneven, especially in the early chapters, where dialogue too often sounds like speechifying. It's only when she lightens up and lets her characters loose on the wild-and-woolly streets that things take off.
By the end, I was really rooting for Leoni and her ragtag gang of unlikely detectives as they confront evil landlords and bust open a scam of truly appalling exploitation.
Still, Capponi needs to revisit Parkdale before starting on the next Dana Leoni.