Nancy and the girls are off to Elk River Ranch in Wyoming. Alice, the best friend of her aunt Eloise, invited them to spend some time with her and her husband, John. They'll also meet Jenny, her daughter, and Jenny's fiancee, Paul. Paul is a zoology student and helping build a wolf sanctuary on their land. Bess is less then pleased with the news, especially after hearing that they also have a pet wolf.
While on the way to the ranch, they have a run in with Rusty. He's their closest neighbor and has a yard absolutely filled to the brim with junk. Rusty fires a slingshot at the car windshield and makes a big deal out of how he doesn't like people around his property. They finally get to the ranch and meet Dody, a guest, and his son, Dexter, who Bess instantly develops a crush on.
Nancy almost instantly finds an old pocket knife in the room she shares with George. Since it has RM on it, she thinks it might belong to Rusty. That freaks Alice out because she can't imagine him sneaking around the ranch. She tells her that it must belong to Ross, one of their ranch hands. They then meet Jenny and Paul, who just wants to talk about how awesome wolves are.
The two take the girls out to see Rainbow, the wolf pet. Her parents died, her pack abandoned her, and Alice found her just in the nick of time. Rainbow recently had puppies with their sled dog, Grover, and the girls want to check things out. Before they can get there though, they almost get run over by a truck.
Stella, the driver, is Paul's grandmother, and she has this guy Bill with her. Bill owns a ranch nearby and is worried about having a wolf sanctuary so close. He wants assurances that the wolves won't escape and kill his livestock. This gives Paul an excuse to talk about how they would never do that because it's not like wolves do this every single day. As they look at the puppies, Alice casually mentions that there was an intruder the night before.
Nancy wakes up in the middle of the night to noises outside and instantly wakes up George. They head downstairs and eventually find most of the ranch out in the barn. Someone broke in, shot Grover with a tranquilizer dart, and then ran off with Rainbow. John calls the vet to learn what to do about the puppies and how to care for Grover. Nancy goes outside to look for clues and actually becomes disoriented in the blizzard that suddenly hit. This is not my Nancy.
Paul luckily comes by as he returns back from working outside and helps her find her way back to the barn. Nancy thinks that Rusty must be behind everything and wants to check him out. John comes in and tells everyone that someone stole the puppies. They waited until he took Grover out for a walk, sneaked into the house where they took them to keep them warm, and stole them.
The girls go to Rusty's house and sneak around. The find that he has a bunch of cats, apparently never cleans his house, and has a pig skull on display. When they start sneaking around outside, he catches them and locks the girls in a pen with a big hog that charges. Rusty steps in at the last second and warns them about snooping around. When Nancy shows him the pocket watch, he says it isn't his but takes it anyway.
They decide to take a break from the case and do a little skiing with Dexter. While on the chair lift, their chair stops in the middle of the trail. Nancy throws her ski pole like a javelin to tell ski patrol they're up there. Ski patrol finds them and helps them down. One guy tells her it's really weird. Someone told him the last chair on the lift was the one before them and all their phones stopped working.
All they want to do is go back to the ranch and relax. Alice tells them all about this program designed to introduce Canadian wolves into the region. These defenders group pushed for the program, but local ranchers aren't happy because the wolves attack and kill livestock. When they finally get back, they find a note from someone that warns them to ban wild wolves or they'll never see their tame ones again.
Paul thinks the note was left for him and feels bad but not bad enough to suggest that they take the sled dogs out for a run. Though he assures them that he does this trail all the time and that it's perfectly safe, they go off the trail, one of the dogs goes over a ravine, and they almost go in too. He manages to move the dogs and save the last one. Nancy finds that someone cut the reins.
The girls then go with Jenny to check out the neighboring ranch and decide to use snowshoes. Though they have fun, the snow starts again and the wind picks up. Jenny then notices a pack of wild wolves on the trail with them. Ross luckily shows up with his snowmobile and helps them get back before deciding to visit a friend. Bess stays behind, while Nancy and George to to the other ranch.
They stop when they see a snowmobile just like the one Ross drives sitting in front of the town's general store. When they get closer, they find him buying five radio collars, the exact size for wolf hybrid puppies. Ross takes off on a trail they can't drive on with their car, but Nancy convinces an old guy to let her borrow one of his snowmobiles. They follow his tracks and find that he went to Coyote Corners, which is the name of the ranch that Paul's grandmother owns. It doesn't take long before they hear someone asking her about the wolf puppy she sold him.
Ross sees Nancy and waves his stun gun around in the air. George sneaks over to the guy who bought one of the puppies, whispers something to him, and he heads for the hills. Nancy then karate chops the stun gun out of Ross's hand, but Stella then grabs a lamp and goes after her. Stella gets the stun gun and holds it to Nancy's neck as Ross grabs George. They start taking them to something called the bear cave, which does not sound at all safe.
On the way, Stella explains that her husband recently passed away and left more of his money than she expected to his kids from her first marriage. She had enough to live comfortably but not enough to go on a safari like she always wanted. So she and Ross worked together to steal and sell the puppies. Ross accidentally left behind his pocket watch while checking on Rainbow. When it's all done though, she totally plans on giving Rainbow back.
As they step outside though, they find the cops waiting. They arrest the two, and George reveals that she told the buyer the puppies were stolen and asked him to call the cops. Ross was the one who messed up the chair lift and did all the other stuff, but Dody was responsible for the note. The guy from the other ranch asked him to leave it there to try and scare them into being on his side. Rainbow is so happy to be home that she not only lets Nancy pet her, but also lets her hold one of her puppies.
*Alice says the town can't do anything about all the junk in Rusty's yard, which is kind of ridiculous. My dad lived in a kind of rural area and had a neighbor who constantly called the township on him over stuff in his yard. They came out 4-6 times last year to tell him he had to take stuff off his driveway, burn tree limbs, and random stuff like that. They also came out at least three times since he passed away while we were going through the house!
*I love that even though Jenny and Paul are engaged, they have separate rooms. This book came out in 2002, not 1802.
*Paul talks about how people just don't understand wolves and how they're actually gentle creatures. He goes on and on about how he worked with them in college and never felt scared or worried. That's great but not very realistic. There's a reason we don't walk up to wild wolves and try to pet them.
*When Nancy and George can't find Jenny in her room after hearing noises outside, they immediately think that she's in trouble. I'd probably assume she sneaked off for some late night fun with her future husband!
*Nancy thinks it's suspicious that Paul slept through all the commotion and didn't come out, but there's no mention of Bess either, so she apparently slept through it too.
*Jenny explains that introducing wild wolves isn't such a bad thing because as long as they have enough wild animals to prey on, they won't attack livestock. Oh, so it's okay for the wolves to eat all the local animals then?
*According to Paul, he has a stun gun that he uses when working with wild wolves. He basically knocks them out and then puts a radio collar on them. Yeah, that sounds way safer than using a tranquilizer gun.
*The guy they borrow the snowmobile from literally has to tell them how to operate it but lets them go after getting 20 bucks. Will $20 cover all the repairs if they crash or break it?
*I honestly have no idea how much wolf hybrid puppies sell for, but would selling five dogs really pay for an African safari vacation?