Riley's father is serving in Afghanistan, and his mother is working in a local bank. Riley's a good kid, but when his father first shipped out, he made the mistake of trying to steal an ice cream cake by putting it down the front of his pants, and now the police chief has it out for him. To make matters worse, the chief's son, Gavin, is a major bully who is stealing things from 5th graders and his Grandma Brown is hawking them at the local flea market! Riley has a good group of friends who help him keep kids safe from Gavin, including Briana, who has hippie parents and likes to dress up and act out roles; Jamal, who is very smart;Jake, a tech geek; and Mongo, who is very big and whose family has just gotten an expensive goldendoodle named Noodle. When the kids figure out that Nick from Pizza Palace stole the dog and that Grandma Brown is running a puppy mill, they work to rescue the dogs. Things get complicated when the manager of the bank where Riley's mother works loses money gambling, steals it from a widowed bank customer and tries to frame Ms. Mack for the theft. The kids try to break into the bank to get evidence at the same time two criminals are trying to rob the safe. Can they clear Riley's mother's name, save the dogs AND bring down Chief Brown?
I really liked The Crossroads series, and Grabenstein certainly writes engaging prose. Riley is a fun character, and I think that middle grade students will like this book, especially since dog books are asked for more and more.