A bunch of people in River Heights are all sad because this millionaire named Clayton Glover passed away. His son Matt went missing five years ago during an avalanche in Colorado and is presumably dead, so no one really knows what will happen to his fortune. He apparently left behind a will that set aside money for his old housekeeper and for some charities in town. Before people get too excited about their new fortunes though, his son Matt suddenly reappears from the dead!
Matt claims that he woke up from the avalanche with amnesia and couldn't remember who he was. He remembered that he liked to write, adopted the name Gary Page, and became a newspaper writer. After spending a few years writing, he accidentally stumbled upon his dad's obituary and suddenly remembered who he was. Mrs. Adams, the old housekeeper, is sure it's him, but no one else is sure what to think except for Bess.
See, Matt was five years older than them but nice enough to invite all the younger kids to his mansion for ice skating, parties, and other events when they were younger. Bess had a crush on him back then, which quickly becomes current once she meets him. Matt starts inviting her over all the time and spending a lot of time with her. Tony, the leader of an environmental group in town, tells Nancy to come see him the next day because he can prove that this guy is not Matt.
Tony's office is pretty shitty. There's trash everywhere, no one really around, and lots of unpaid bills. He tells Nancy that he and Matt were like brothers when they were younger and that there is something about this guy that he doesn't like. Since he offers no real evidence, Nancy breaks into his office and winds up trapped when his dogs attack. The dogs are actually big sweethearts though, and Tony is more upset at her not trusting his gut feeling than her breaking the law.
Nancy then hears about Jake Loomis. Loomis was a landscaper in town and worked for Glover. After his death, he left River Heights for Chicago and opened some huge landscaping business. Gary Page, Matt's old identity, wrote a story about Loomis. Nancy meets his old editor who gets irritated that people might not believe he's actually Matt but does let it slip that he never talked about his past and never mentioned that he supposedly suffered from amnesia. Nancy and George both meet Loomis who makes up excuses for why he didn't realize Gary was Matt, despite knowing him his entire life.
Matt keeps throwing all these parties and has no problem spending his dad's money. He starts driving his dad's vintage car, wearing his old watches, and spending a lot of money on new clothes. Bess is so over the moon that she refuses to listen to anyone who tells her to slow things down. When Matt invites them over one day, he convinces them to go for sleigh rides and even rents horses from nearby.
Someone in a red jacket runs in front of the horses carrying Nancy and George. The horses flip out, Nancy tries to calm them down, and the reins break. She wakes up in a room in the mansion to learn that George landed safely in a snowbank. Once she feels better, she finds a wet red jacket in the closet. She suspects that someone though she was Matt because she was wearing his hat, but the only person who could have worn the jacket was Mrs. Adams.
Though she does kind of suspect this 60+ year old woman, everything changes when Nancy stops by one day and finds her crying over cake. Matt explains that every time she made him or his dad a cake when he was younger, his dad would treat her to a bakery cake made just for her. Since she made him pie, he decided to treat her in the same way. Mrs. Adams confides in Nancy that she was sure he was Matt because he called her Addie, a nickname only he knew about, but not she's not so sure. She's so allergic to chocolate that she once had a massive reaction and almost died in front of him, which is something kids don't forget.
Nancy then comes up with a plan. She has Tony call Loomis's office and pretend that he's Matt with a request that they meet in River Heights at seven. She then goes to Bess and convinces her to carry a micro recorder over to Matt's house and lie to him about something to catch him. Bess only agrees to help if Nancy will let her prove that he's the real deal and then drop it.
Bess brings up his 18th birthday party and really does catch him. The real Matt has two cakes shaped like a one and eight with mocha fudge frosting. Fake Matt says he had a purple and white cake in the shape of a football because he was a football star in high school. When she makes up an excuse to leave, he grabs her and the recorder accidentally falls out. Loomis then appears and flips out.
Nancy tries to run inside and help but only makes this worse. Turns out that Matt is really just Gary Page. He met Loomis, who noticed the resemblance between him and Matt. When Matt's dad died, Loomis trained him on how to be the real Matt and brought him back to town. Gary suggests that they bring the girls in on the scam and that they'll split the money with them. Tony's dogs suddenly burst into the room all freaked out.
Not knowing that the dogs are sweethearts, the two men run for the hills. Tony catches Gary, and Nancy knocks Loomis out with a judo kick to the back, seriously. The cops then come and arrest them both. Tony tells her that his dogs hate water, so he tossed water on them to freak them out before breaking into the house.
In the end, Carson writes up a press release. Glover set aside a large sum of money for Mrs. Adams, donated his house and grounds to the city – provided that they open the grounds up for ice skating like his son always loved and name the museum inside his house after his son, and gave money to a bunch of charities like Tony's environment group. Everyone takes a moment to think about how he was such a great guy. Bess then announces that the whole experience makes her think that anything can happen and that she realizes the real Matt might be alive and ready to come home. Ugh.
*I'm guessing that River Heights is somewhere in Illinois because Nancy goes to Chicago for a few hours two different times.
*Mrs. Adams is so allergic to chocolate that she almost died from eating a cookie with candy in it, yet she has no problem cutting and serving a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting that other people eat. Um, that's not how food allergies work...
*Nancy discovers that new Matt has the same scar on his wrist that old Matt has but thinks he created it because it's pink and not skin colored like older scars are. Yeah, I have a massive scar that is 20+ years old on my ankle that is still pretty pink.
*New Matt passes a lie detector test but fails when he says he was never in Colorado where the avalanche happened. Carson explains that new Matt was so caught up in his lie that he believed everything Matt experienced happened to him but that he never learned about the avalanche, so he couldn't pass those questions. Yeah, okay.
*Thanks to this book, we now know that River Heights High School colors are purple and white!
*Mr. Glover is like the richest man in River Heights but has a total worth of $10 million when he dies, which really isn't a lot-lot. There are houses in my area that sold for half that amount or more recently.
*Ned calls a few times and has to break plans to come home the next weekend because of a big test. Nancy is all sad, even though she breaks plans with him all the time, but I'm just surprised that she didn't run off and cheat on him.
*George is super worried about fake Matt because of the age difference between him and Bess. She's 18, and he's like 23. I knew girls in college who weren't much older and dating guys in their mid to upper 30s, which was way creepier.