Teacher Meg Halloran (Grandmother's House, 1991, etc.) is indulging 14-year-old daughter Katy's passion for wolves with a trip to a Washington State preserve, to be followed by a visit to Meg's longtime friend in northern California--Lauren Macrae. Lauren's husband is Sam Cavalier, a naturalist-photographer whose work with wolves makes him one of Katy's idols. All goes well until the two reach the Macrae ranch, where Meg senses a flow of tension under Lauren's warm welcome to the house she shares with her two small children and her frail, crotchety Aunt Frances. Sam is in Alaska on one of his months-long expeditions. Meanwhile, it's the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Lauren's no-good younger brother Bobby--adored by Aunt Frances, feared by others. Bobby spent a lot of time at the neighboring Jakel ranch, where sons Chuck and just-out-of-jail Marv are at odds. They come to blows after a town meeting attended by Lauren, who insists on driving a badly beaten Chuck home. The next morning, Chuck is found shot to death and Lauren has vanished. While an inept sheriff seeks Lauren, Sam comes back to reveal feet of clay, and there's another killing- -but Meg finally cues in to the murderer. A good plot is almost buried under domestic trivia, wolf lore, Katy's social life, and other ramblings--but is partly salvaged by an interesting rural setting, some oddball characters, and a breezy narrative style.