On a June morning in Saskawan, Michigan, 84-year-old columnist Iris VanWingen discovers a runaway monkey in the barn of her tumble-down urban farm. She is not pleased. In fact, her searing diatribe aimed at "that pathetic menagerie next door" stirs up opposition to Ridge Park Zoo's plans for expansion. It will be up to Caroline Finch, the zoo's new and untested spokesperson, to control the damage and placate the opinionated (and frankly scary) Mrs. VanWingen. But before the summer ends, the two women uncover a sinister conspiracy that threatens them both. What Iris and Caroline learn from each other and from ten-year-old junior zookeeper Rafael Rojas, sets them on a dangerous quest to save the land, the wildlife and the people they love.