Carson's sister Eloise invited the girls to stay with her and check out a big charity fashion show. As soon as they arrive though, she reveals that fashion model Jacqueline Henri disappeared. She was set to be the big star of the show. Luckily, Eloise already volunteered Nancy to take her spot. They rush over to the show, and see Jacqueline herself on the street before the woman rushes away. They also meet Mr. Reese, the famous fashion designer who donated some of his clothing.
He immediately moans and whines that someone stole some of his designs. After throwing a fit and firing his assistant, he takes one look at Nancy and decides that she'll do for the show. When she walks out in the first outfit though, he throws another fit and pulls her off stage. He shows her the Millington catalog, which is a retail company that sells knock off designer fashions. Somehow, the company responsible for the catalog got his designs ahead of time and are already selling them. According to Reese, it will take him far too long to recover and his business is now over.
Reese is just about to cancel the show when he gets a message from one of his long term customers in the audience who wants to buy the dress Nancy wore. After doing a not at all surprisingly amazing job, she asks the designer to make sketches of his missing dresses for her before going to the after party. There, she meets Chris Chavez, the world famous photographer. She also runs into Jacqueline, who thanks her for taking her spot, announces that someone kidnapped her brother, and then disappears. Chavez just gushes about how beautiful Nancy is and how she should become a model.
After getting an envelop that contains the sketches and hearing that Reese took off on a trip, the girls decide to visit Chavez's studio. They hear loud voices arguing inside and see Jacqueline come out. It turns out that their good friends and that she was telling him about her brother. Ted, the brother, is an investigative journalist who went missing while searching for something called the lion's crest. Jacqueline received a note from him that said to call the cops if she didn't hear from him for several days, but she isn't sure if it's really from him. Nancy agrees to take on the case and keep the cops out of it.
They decide to check with antique stores and auction houses for the crest and hear about an auction that very night with a bunch of antiques up for sale. The lion crest is actually there and is some type of medallion. Nancy bids on it but loses out. It's from the estate of someone named Kaiser, and the high bidder is Russell Kaiser. He acts super rude and makes up an excuse to take off.
Two other men big on the same medallion but nothing else during the auction. Another man approaches them and says his name is Russell Kaiser, which makes the other man an impostor. He says that it was his uncle's estate and that an old friend called and wanted the medallion for sentimental reasons. When he hears about the impostor, he immediately runs off to make sure the man didn't steal any of his checks.
Nancy gets a telegram from her dad that he needs her to get some important documents he's sending. Since she can't leave the house, George and Bess go to the police station to look through mug shots and possibly find the man from the auction. They find the second Russell Kaiser and learn that he's actually a con artist named Peter Grover. The girls also swing by a dress shop Jacqueline told them about but only find rude sales staff who make it clear everything sold there is unique and one of a kind. As an added bonus, Carson never sent a telegram, which means someone wanted her in the house all day.
During their investigation, they find Reese throwing a fit at a photographer's studio. The photographer winds up throwing him out, which makes him go crazy and break a bunch of stuff. He tells them that the photographer was taking pictures of girls in some of his stolen dresses. They then find that the dresses appeared in yet another catalog. Only a few people saw his designs before, including Chavez.
In the hopes of solving the mystery, they split up and apply for jobs at both design houses. Bess and George do terribly but learn that Chavez was the photographer they use. They also discover that he's supposedly been out of town for weeks, even though they just met him. To make things even stranger, they overhear someone calling a completely different man Chavez. Nancy gets recognized on the spot because of being in the fashion show. The HR director says they might have a job for her and leave her in a room where the lights go out.
Bess and George go to see Jacqueline, but when they push her buzzer, a strange woman answers and tells them they have the wrong apartment. They sneak inside, go upstairs, and hear people arguing inside the apartment. A man's voice says something about keeping Nancy busy. The door opens, he storms out, and it's the first Chavez. Though they try to follow him, he gets away.
This book is super confusing and hard to keep up with, but I'll try. Nancy escapes by using a letter opener to break open the door and heads home. She goes back the next day and learns the man she talked to was fired and had no authority to offer her any type of job. They learn that someone broke into Kaiser's apartment and stole a ton of stuff before following random people around town. It literally feels like nothing happens. Nancy makes an appointment with the real Kaiser and finds out that the thief didn't take the medallion. She also suspects that the first Chavez is a fake and may actually be Ted, Jacqueline's brother.
Nancy thinks the answer to everything is at the upcoming Crystal Ball. Reese agrees to wrangle them invites to the fancy ball and even dress them. Rosalind, the assistant he fired way back at the beginning, picks out dresses for them but picks out ones that are way too small. She says she'll send them once she finishes altering them. The dresses arrive with the zippers sewn shut, but Nancy uses scissors and saves them.
Every suspect possible is at the party, including the fake Chavez and the fake Kaiser aka Grover. Nancy runs in Hans, a German designer who believes that Reese stole his designs. He claims that Reese lost his touch in the fashion industry. Even though he supposedly designed dresses that look exactly like the stolen designs, Hans says that Reese is just crazy and that the dresses are similar. While tracking the fake impostors around the party, Nancy loses them and sees Rosalind in the crowd.
When the woman disappears, Nancy tries to track her down and sees a suspicious man outside near a white van. She recognizes him as the owner of a local fabric store before everything goes black. George and Bess meet two guys, but when they decide to go looking for Nancy, the guys decide to help. They get separated, someone shoves them in a van, and handcuffs them. Though they worry about their new friends, it turns out the guys are involved.
In a completely unrealistic scene, Bess's wrists are so enormous because of her being 10 pounds overweight that she slips the cuffs and then helps George escape. They overhear the two men talking about the pier, sneak away to find a taxi, and get the driver to take them to the pier. Worried about their safety, he agrees to wait for them. There, they find a building, pick the lock, and discover racks and racks of designer dresses inside.
Bess and George find Nancy tied up in a room inside the building. They get her untied when Rosalind walks in, but Bess literally sits on top of her to keep her from moving. We then get a few POV pages from the bad guys that have them talking about ripping off designer fashions for profit. We then find out that just as the ladies are about to escape, the whole building goes up in flames!
Let's try to wrap this up quickly. Rosalind tells them where to find a key to unlock the door and get out of the building. They find the police and a bunch of other people waiting. Turns out that Rosalind stole the designs because Reese fired her sister who really needed the money. The fake Chavez really was Ted, Jacqueline's brother, and Peter Grover, the fake Kaiser, was not Peter Grover but his cousin, who worked with Ted on the smuggling case. The paper then runs a story about how the real Kaiser remembered a story his uncle told him and found an extremely valuable black opal hidden inside the medallion. Does this connect to absolutely anything? Nope.
*Everyone says that Nancy will fill in perfectly for Jacqueline because they look so similar, but Jacqueline is described as super thin with dark eyes and ebony black hair. Yup, she totally looks just like Nancy.
*Bess and George want to know how Ned will feel when they see his girlfriend dancing in the arms of a handsome photographer on the cover of the paper the next day. Nancy just laughs it off because Ned will never see the picture. That seems kind of rude to me.
*Bess gets a makeover, which leaves her with huge fake eyelashes and this crazy permed hairdo that looks terrible on her, but she loves it because a professional modeling guy did it.
*George makes two kind of mean comments in the dress store about Bess. One where she tells her that she can't wear a pair of pants because they're meant for sticks, which Bess is not, and again when she says an outfit she tried on was clearly meant for a skinny girl.
*Seriously, I think the ghostwriter forgot that he/she made Ted involved in the lion crest story at the beginning. He winds up being in the middle of a story on garment smuggling and has nothing to do with the whole lion thing.