Dink, Josh and Ruth Rose are spending a week at a dude ranch. Everything is normal in a cowboy sort of way--until Josh finds a huge gold nugget! Just as the kids are deciding what to do with their newfound riches, the nugget disappears. Will the kids be able to track down the thief before it's time to mosey on home?
As a reward for helping Lucky O'Leary track down his stolen lottery ticket in The Lucky Lottery, Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose are on a complementary trip to Wheat Ranch in Bozeman, Montana. There, they meet the Wheat family--Ma, Pa, and Jud--their cook, Lulu, and their hired hand, Thumbs. Meanwhile, the ranch has several other guests that help build up a much larger suspect pool than is typical for A to Z Mysteries books. These characters include Ed Getz, a magician who wants to be an actor; Fionna Nippit, a nurse; and Seth and Bonnie Clyde, a pair of honeymooners.
Before the mystery gets underway, two nights pass at the dude ranch. On the first day, Jud tells the kids a campfire story about a vengeful grizzly stalking the ranch... and on the second day, Josh finds a huge nugget of gold while he and the other guests are learning to pan. But on the third day--about halfway through the book--the mystery arrives on the scene when Josh's gold is stolen from the ranch's safe. Atypically for the series, there are, as I've said already, a whole slew of suspects, one of whom is an incredibly obvious "choice" (which, of course, means that he's a red herring). Amusing, there's also a red herring thrown in for adults. You'd think the character called "Bonnie Clyde" would turn out to be a crook, right? As it turns out, nope--for once, the character with the crime pun for a name didn't do it.
As usual for the A to Z Mysteries series, it's a cute story that the target audience should find sufficiently mystifying, and any adults reading along won't be excruciatingly bored. Highly recommended to mystery fans and young readers.