Sunny Dreams by Alison Preston. Signature Editions 2007.
It surprises me that Alison Preston’s interesting Frank Foote detective series isn’t better-known. Preston’s stories, set in and around the Norwood Flats neighbourhood of Winnipeg, Manitoba, are always interesting. Her characters are well-developed and likeable. I have been a Frank Foote fan since I read The Rain Barrel Baby, in which Frank is revealed to be a closet knitter, hiding needles and wool in his desk drawer for times when he needs a calming moment.
Sunny Dreams is a bit of a departure from the earlier novels in the series. The events that set the story in motion take place in 1925, when a baby named Sunny is kidnapped from her baby carriage in a restaurant. The story then jumps forward to a time 11 years later. Sunny’s older sister, Violet Palmer, related the events following the kidnapping, when her family falls apart and is slowly reconstructed. Now it is the height of the depression. When 2 drifters arrive in town and Violet’s father hires the two men to construct a garage, tensions rise. One of the men, Jackson Shirt, has a secret that will reshape their family once again.
Sunny Dreams brings together several interesting narrative threads. It is at once a coming-of-age story as Violet develops a crush on Jackson Shirt; a story of the depression years in Winnipeg, when men travelled the country in search of a living; a story of racism and the persecution of a black man; and even a look at the ravages of polio. Preston weaves the various story lines together to solve a long ago mystery while providing Frank Foote with a family: Violet is his mom.
This is a good series that should be more widely read.