Body In the Record Room
Dunne, Oct 2008
In 1954 at the Sunrise Mental Institute, Roy Rogers is a patient; not the movie star, but someone who took his name to emulate the western actor’s doing good deeds. Roy the patient enjoys sneaking in the record room to look at the files. He and his sidekick Harry enter only to find the battered corpse of elderly Father Coonie. Instead of notifying the Little Man who runs the place, Roy persuades Harry to bury the priest in the stables.
Roy investigates and learns Coonie’s tied to Marcia Weinhart, who was murdered two decades earlier. A second murder occurs when someone murders Father Hogan. With help from asylum worker Nancy Jane and some of the patients, Roy begins to put together who killed the two fathers and how it ties back to the unsolved cold case homicide of Marcia.
This engaging historical amateur sleuth tale provides readers deep insight into the mindset of mentally ill people and the mega-hospital asylums where many lived. Roy is a fascinating lead character as he tries to live up to the moral mantra set by the actor. At times Roy preaches about the legacy of Reagan and subsequent administrations that the politicians prefer to ignore; condemning the avarice that slowly eroded mental health assistance to those in need. A female patient explains she is safe at Sunrise due to Dr. “Little Man”, but once the bigwigs shut the facility as she expects she will live homeless under a bridge waiting until the rapes begin.