Once again something mysterious is happening in the small town of Maggody, Arkansas, and Chief of Police Arly Hanks is right in the middle of it. This time the locals get riled up when the old folks' home is closed and the new owners keep an armed guard with a dog to watch over it. The place is renovated and encircled by an electric fence. The people of Maggody are at first curious but then start to fear that something sinister is going on. When the name "Stonebrige Foundation" appears, the townspeople are gripped with fear that it is a testing place for chemical weapons or genetic research - or even an insane asylum. In order to keep themselves safe, they start to keep a close eye on the place. Concerned women even start arming themselves.
The owners of the place, doctors Vincent Stonebrige and Randall Zumi, have
purchased the place to make it a very expensive rehabilitation clinic for the rich and famous. They are doing their best to keep this a secret, especially when their four first patients arrive. A former child star, a football hero, a U.S. Senator, and a popular dieting guru are there
mostly because they have to be, not because they want to; some of them are even trying to escape. Stonebrige and Zumi have put everything they own to the place and are trying their best to make it a discreet but a successful clinic. Then one of their employees is murdered, and Arly
Hanks is called in to investigate.
The characters are interesting and colorful, and Hess makes them come to alive with just a few paragraphs. The greedy and self-centered Stonebrige, pessimistic Zumi, the dietitian Brenda Skiller who insists on feeding the patients only organic vegetables, bohemian personal trainer Walter Kaiser
- they all become full characters fairly quickly. The town residents, from Arly's mother, Ruby Bee, to mayor Jim Bob and the others have been written to tickle anyone's funny bone.
Hess uses a variable of first and third-person points of view. Arly's passages are in first-person, all the others in third person. The POV changes often from one person to the next, but the
transitions are smooth and add to the story. Most of the plot is highly unlikely but still, or perhaps because of it, entertaining,
fast-paced and comical.