It's 1954. When a mental patient who calls himself Roy Rogers finds a body in the hospital record room, his investigation leads him to the murder of Marcia Weinhart. Twenty years earlier, authorities found her mutilated corpse lying on the altar of St. Adrian's Catholic Church in Sunrise, Missouri.
Roy, his friend Harry, and Harry's beloved dog, Bullet, move through the buildings and grounds of the Sunrise Mental Hospital, a thousand-acre facility with more than two thousand patients and eight hundred employees. They go from the record room to the hospital's Catholic chapel, from the blacksmith shop to the hospital cemetery, looking for victims of the terrible abuse behind the Weinhart murder.
In the process, Roy comes to better understand the strength and moral stature of his hero, the real Roy Rogers. He is able to overcome the terror of his past, choosing to forgo violence and work within the law.
Joe Barone's debut makes for an intriguing mystery while also elevating old-time heroes and their values.
Set in Sunrise, Mo., in 1954, Barone's engaging first novel offers some timely lessons about the corrosive effects of greed and prejudice. When a mental patient, who's convinced he's cowboy star Roy Rogers, and his fellow inmate and trusted friend, Harry, stumble on a dead man in Sunrise State Hospital's record room, they inadvertently shed unwelcome light on Sunrise's darkest secret. As people start getting murdered all around Sunrise, the town blames the hospital for the violence and demands its immediate shutdown. The hospital closure would not so coincidentally result in a financial boon for its opponents. Roy and Harry, falsely accused of the murders, must fight their own insanity in an effort to solve the mystery that's been plaguing the town and their beloved hospital for 20 years. While too many minor characters clutter the plot, readers will cheer the triumph of old-fashioned virtues in the end.