Elizabeth Porter is George's aunt who lives in small town. When she gets some huge conservation award, the gals go to congratulate her. Nancy overhears someone complaining about bats and wonders what's going on before actually meeting the older lady. As it happens, there is a huge controversy going on in this small town.
A local boy was killed while riding his bike at dusk along a road. There have been multiple accidents over the years that led to deaths and injuries. Though the town wants to widen the road to save lives and prevent accidents, Elizabeth is part of a group against the project because it will harm a group of endangered bats living right off the road. Sarah, the sister of the boy who died, shows up and screams at her before another young woman encourages her to leave.
That woman is Jessie, a biology student from a local university in town to study the bats. Jessie and Elizabeth are leading the anti-road group. After going back to Elizabeth's house, Jessie tells them all about the bats and pretty much goes bonkers over saving them. Elizabeth gets a call from someone threatening her to back off before her friend Margaret stops by. Margaret was the mother of the boy who was hit and begs her friend to reconsider her stance. When Elizabeth refuses but says she wants to find a compromise, they agree to not let a fight get between their friendship.
Jessie takes the girls on a bike ride to show them where the bats live. Nancy and her friends suddenly want to protect the bats too because Jessie gives such a memorable speech. Mr. Tolchinsky comes out of the woods to yell at them. He lives in a cottage back in the woods and they're technically on his property. Though he doesn't like bats, he doesn't like the idea of construction crews working right outside his house either. After making it clear he has no position and warning them once again, he heads back home.
When they go back to the house, they tell Elizabeth about what happened. She goes off on Tolchinsky because he was rude to her when she randomly stopped by his house after he moved to town and started asking him a ton of questions. They literally laugh and make fun of him until Professor Noble from the university arrives. Noble isn't happy with Tolchinsky either because the man yelled at him for illegally trespassing on his property. What a total ogre!
Noble tells them that the city called him to do a conservation report. He found that the bats chose their location because it has a cave nearby where they can hibernate in the winter, but unfortunately, he never found the cave. U.S. Fish and Wildlife then came in and did their own report and found that moving the bats wouldn't harm him. He's convinced that he's right and they're wrong though.
Noble is in town for a huge city council meeting about the bats. He gets up to speak first, a representative from Fish and Wildlife goes next and reads from the report that states moving the bats is safe. Noble goes off about the supposed cave, and the representative tells him that until he finds a cave, there's no reason not to move the bats. Tolchinsky then speaks and makes it clear that he doesn't care either way yet again but that he'll take care of anyone who trespasses on his land later. Sarah also gets up to cry about her brother and accuse anyone going against the road widening project to be a murderer. When the girls head back to Elizabeth's house, they almost have a major accident on that same road.
Though they survive, they realize it was someone driving without their headlights and trying to scare them. Elizabeth thinks that since they were in her car, someone thought it was her. She then finds a stuffed animal bat hanging from her porch. It has a note attached to its chest that warns her to drop her crusade. Though Nancy can't find any evidence, she thinks she can trace the toy back to where it came from.
While wandering around town the next day, Nancy sees a newspaper that has a deadline about the last winter being mild. That's strange because she heard that the city went over budget with its snow removal. She also sees a run down hardware store and learns that the owner doesn't seem to really care about his store anymore. After seeing a stuffed bat hanging in the toy store, she goes in and learns that someone bought one the day before. When the owner walks off to talk with some customers, Nancy goes through the receipts and finds that someone bought one with Margaret's credit card.
Still not having enough proof to do anything, she and Bess go for a drive while George stays with her aunt. A black car driving without headlights comes out of nowhere, crashes into them, and pushes them into a pond. They get out and hop a ride back into town to the police station. Nancy tells the officer that they were hit by a black Saab, which just so happens to be the same car that Sarah drives.
After hearing that she's a detective, the officer lets Nancy come with her to Sarah's house. Even though her car hood is warm, she and Margaret both claim she was home all night. Conveniently, Sarah has a tendency to leave her car keys in the ignition, which means anyone could have taken it. Though she admits to buying a stuffed bat, she says she bought it for herself. When she goes to get it, she realizes someone stole it. Nancy then discovers that someone tampered with the fence around the pond, which means someone set them up to crash into the water.
In the hopes of finding the cave, Nancy, Jessie, and the professor and Mary Anne, ok, so just the first three plus Bess and George go hiking. Jessie and Nancy actually find the cave but discover that it's full of dead bats. A shovel in the cave is covered with blood and fur. The professor finds a sticker on the shovel that shows it came from the local hardware store. To make things worse, Bess sprains her ankle.
Tolchinsky finds them in the woods and begrudgingly agrees to take Nancy back to his house to call for help. While he's out of the room, she starts snooping around and sees a bunch of pictures of him with famous people like politicians, directors, actors, and even the President. After seeing several books from a well known author named James Stanton who suddenly went missing, she realizes that Tolchinsky is actually the missing writer.
Someone close to him died and he had such a hard time writing that he quit. She agrees to keep his secret. Bess's ankle is actually broken, which means she can't work on the case anymore. After some more investigative work, Nancy finds out that someone discovered gold in and around the bat cave. After way too much boring crap, Sarah almost gets hit by a car on the same damn road and gives them some proof. Nancy goes back to the house, finds Bess tied up, and learns that someone kidnapped Elizabeth.
It turns out that some dude on the city council and the owner of the hardware store caused all the fake accidents because they wanted Elizabeth to stop. She was annoying a lot of people and a lot of people would vote against her. They were out there panning for gold and didn't want anyone to see them, which would have happened if the project would through. The cops wind up arresting both men. Sarah then comes up with a plan for widening the road except where the bats live and building a bike trail through that section of the woods. So, I guess people only need to worry about aggravating the bats enough on dusk bike rides that the bats attack?
*This book came way after I stopped reading Nancy Drew books. By the time I hit sixteen, I rarely ever read anything YA in nature.
*I'm all for protecting animals like bats but maybe not at the risk of humans. Elizabeth feels like saving human lives is important but not at the risk of harming some bats. Can't they find a way to move the bats to a new habitat and still save lives?
*So, her best friend's son died a horrible death after someone hit him on that road. Yet she's still against making sure it can happen again? If my best friend went against me on something like this, she would no longer be my best friend...
*The mayor supposedly doesn't like Elizabeth because she keeps coming up with projects that cost a lot of money the town doesn't have and then goes off and holds fundraising campaigns to get the money. Can she not help raise money for her town instead of random projects?
*Elizabeth and Noble both tick me off. Oh, you're mad because he didn't want to answer millions of questions from someone he doesn't know and isn't happy that people keep wandering onto his property without his permission? What a terrible terrible man!
*So, Fish and Wildlife did an extensive report that found moving the bats was safe, yet three people disagree and it's somehow a huge deal? I'm surprised the city didn't just go forward with their plans.
*Elizabeth actually asks why Tolchinsky would bother moving to a new town if he didn't want to get to know people. Are you serious? I've lived in the same house for 5+ years and don't know who the hell lives across the street and pretty much only nod and exchange pleasantries with those who live on either side of me.