It's almost Carson's birthday and Nancy has no idea what to get him, so she starts wandering around town and looking for ideas. While visiting with River Height's resident palm reader and psychic, she sees a black woman in a pantsuit with a man who looks like her husband. The man starts towards the police station before his wife grabs his arm and drags him away. Nancy thinks the woman looks familiar but doesn't remember until later that it's Mrs. Simmons, a woman planning on running for town mayor in the next election.
Mrs. Simmons is also the mother of Leslie, a pianist and a shoe in to win some massive scholarship to the local conservatory. Leslie is so popular that people pay to hear her play already. Also running for mayor is a guy named Granger. He's super rich and owns homes all over the country but somehow just can't get enough of River Heights. The girls all chat about how it's weird he wants to run their town and not live in a better place like Miami.
While sitting down to dinner, Nancy casually mentions seeing Simmons, which causes Carson to drop his spoon and splash soup everywhere. Thinking he's probably working on her campaign in secret, Nancy changes tactics and talks about Leslie instead. Carson sputters, makes a huge mess, and then excuses himself. That gets her thinking and makes her wonder if there's a mystery underfoot.
The next morning, she convinces the girls to snoop around with her. They find nothing until Nancy stops by the Simmons' house to supposedly talk about a charity event. Nancy rushes outside with big news: Leslie was kidnapped! How does she know someone kidnapped the poor chick? Well, it's obvious because no one used the piano for a few days and there were no notes about rehearsals on their calendar. Duh.
Since it's obviously the work of Granger who wants to throw Simmons off her game, the girls start following him around town. Simmons only has until the end of the week to submit her official paperwork to run for mayor, and Nancy assumes that he wants to distract her until the deadline passes. They learn nothing except that Deirdre, the snooty girl they all hate, is working for him as an intern.
Nancy sneaks into his house one night and rifles through the stuff in his basement office. He comes home early and almost catches her but gets distracted by a phone call. Bess pops up and uses her locksmith tools to unlock the padlock he keeps on his basement door to get her out of the house. Since when is Bess the one who can pick locks like a pro?
There's a big music event in town that they all go to in the hopes of finding Leslie and learning the whole thing was a mistake. Not only does Leslie not show up, but her teacher claims that the girl called off because she wanted to practice on her own for the scholarship event. Nancy meets Mrs. Sharon, the mother of Leslie's best friend. It turns out that her own daughter plays the cello and is up for the same scholarship.
Nancy and the gang follow Granger some more and see him secretly enter the children's hospital his company is in the process of building. Thinking he's hiding Leslie there, they follow him inside, only to have them catch them. Nancy tries to bluff her way out of his questions by claiming that she knows what he did and telling him about Leslie. He's in absolute shock and demands that they go see the Simmons right away. Granger tells them that he had nothing to do with her going missing but that he'll put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to her. Simmons tells Nancy that Leslie left a note that said she was going off by herself for a bit but that the handwriting did not match her.
After some back and forth and still no sign of the missing teen, Nancy gets suspicious of the Sharon family. They stop by their house and learn that both the teen daughter and parents left earlier in the day. Their babysitter is there to look after their young son, who is a helpful source of information. He tells them all about how they have a cabin by the lake and how his parents keep taking his sister there and not him.
Even though it's like 10 at night and the lake is four hours away, the girls set off. Between getting lost and the houses having no addresses, it's five am before they get there. Nancy conveniently hears music playing and randomly stumbles across Leslie. It turns out that her best friends' parents suggested they take a trip up there together to get away from it all and practice on their own. The dad came back the day before to pick up his daughter for a dentist's appointment and claimed he'd be back the next morning for Leslie but never showed.
The girls get Leslie in the car and explain what really happened, which sends her into shock because she thought they were actually being nice to her. She uses a cell phone to call her parents and tell them what happened, and they agree to get the auditions held for her. Despite getting back to River Heights, the auditions are over and someone else gets the big scholarship. Leslie is a little bummed because she doesn't know if she'll find a way to go to the music conservatory without it.
Cut to Carson's party. Granger shows up and tells Nancy that since she found the missing teen, she gets the $10,000 reward. After talking with her friends who helped solve the case and deserve a share of the reward, she tells him to give the money to Leslie for music school. Simmons then says she almost feels bad about running against him, but he tells her the people of River Heights deserve a real choice and offers to send someone over to help her with her paperwork. Nancy then gives Carson the best birthday present ever. She rented a piano and asked Leslie to put on a performance for him. Gag me.
*Bess is apparently so afraid of Nancy driving that she hesitates before ever getting in a car with her. It turns out that even though Nancy can solve crimes like a professional police officer, she can't remember to regularly fill her car up with gas.
*Hannah makes a mushroom and squash soup that is so good that George asks Nancy for any leftovers. I like both those ingredients but don't think they really go together.
*The one thing I do like about this newer series is that the Chief doesn't bend over backwards for Nancy all the time. He actually sees her coming in the beginning and suggests she get an actual summer job instead of doing police work. In the end though, he congratulates her on solving the crime without any help.
*One thing I don't like about this series is that they took all of Nancy's traits and moved them around. Bess is now the one who picks locks like a pro, and George is a tech expert. George also has a penlight that she takes everywhere with her. It kind of seems like they could solve most of these cases without her.
*This isn't one of those Texas cheerleader murder cases. The parents apparently spent way too much money on cars, a huge mansion, and a vacation cabin and didn't have enough money to send their daughter to music school. George finds all this by hacking a bunch of records.
*Ned is only in the book because he's still working at his parents' newspaper and can help Nancy get an interview that leads nowhere.