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Teenager Mary Ellen Parteger, daughter of the sheriff of Latimer Falls, Vermont, drops off a favorite family cookie recipe to Deputy Gabby Grimm late one afternoon in early spring, still wearing her red fleece hoodie, and promptly disappears into the forest. Up at Pinkins Pass for a romantic rendezvous under the stars with her Army Special Forces boyfriend, Sam Hogan, Gabby unexpectedly finds the Parteger family car abandoned in the parking lot, with Mary Ellen’s purse still on the seat. Snatched by a couple of creeps hired for the job, the modern-day Little Red Riding Hood is in peril, and the Big, Bad Wolf turns out to be Willie Dumfries, a vicious gangster Rufus Parteger put behind bars back when he was a cop in Providence, Rhode Island. The Latimer Falls Sheriff’s Department is forced to call in the Vermont State Police for help in the search for the missing teenager. Only one problem -- there’s a bad apple with a bad secret hiding in plain sight, and he poses a threat to everyone.

Forced to flee on short notice, the sheriff and the rest of his brood hit the road in a desperate attempt to escape the horrific fate of previous victims of the murderous Willie Dumfries. Leaving Gabby in charge as acting sheriff, Rufus counts on her to problem-solve her way through the mayhem. As investigators hone in on the problem -- not only is that Big, Bad Wolf politically connected, his criminal empire is far more extensive and powerful than anyone imagined -- corruption abounds across several states, and jurisdictions get blurred as the crimes start to mount. Desperately short-handed, Gabby swears Sam in as an auxiliary deputy and counts on a handful of Vermont State Troopers for back-up as Latimer Falls is invaded by organized crime. Is that wise? Unsure of who to trust outside her own department, Gabby also calls in help from Cousin Annette’s boyfriend, Will Jondahl, as the FBI liaison for the case, but will it be enough to keep everyone alive?

When Mary Ellen is snatched a second time, this time right out of the Vermont Department of Public Safety building, it’s abundantly clear there’s a leak somewhere. Forced to cooperate and share their toys, the odd mix of deputies, state troopers, FBI agents, and Special Forces soldiers rush to recover their missing victim before any other calamities can befall her. An unofficial hostage rescue team is quickly assembled to snatch Little Red Riding Hood away from her vicious predators in a daring night-time raid. Once she’s safe and most of the bad guys are finally contained, it’s time to take the sheriff’s family into protective custody. Only trouble is no one knows where they are. It’s up to Gabby to puzzle out the hiding place of the Parteger family, using her skills as a small town deputy, her training in psychology, and a working knowledge of her boss’s mindset to sort through the clues and locate them in time. Then, and only then, will Gabby be able to get the secret ingredient in that cookie recipe, the one the sheriff’s wife forgot to write down for the “Chocomel Beasts”. (Don’t worry -- Ellie Parteger’s recipe is included!)

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