#4 The Powder Puff Puzzle by Patricia Reilly Giff, 1987.
Dawn is on her way to go swimming with her friend Emily Arrow when her cat, Powder Puff, is startled and jumps into a stranger’s car. Before Dawn can do anything about it, the car drives away with her cat!
Fortunately, Dawn managed to notice a few things about the car and driver. The car is red and dented. The driver is tall and skinny and has long, gray hair. She was eating a jelly cookie and carrying a box and a long pole. Her license plate had a name on it and that started with “PA,” but Dawn didn’t get to read the rest.
Emily’s father is a police officer, but he can’t trace the license plate with just the letters that Dawn was able to give him. Instead, he has the kids make Lost Cat posters to put up in the neighborhood. Still, that’s not enough for Dawn. As The Polka Dot Private Eye, she should be able to figure out where her own lost cat is!
With the help of her friends, especially Jason, Dawn uses what she knows to put together a picture of the person they’re looking for, and they try to retrace her steps through town. Can they track down Powder Puff and get him back?
Part of the puzzle that Dawn and Jason overlook at first is the woman’s profession, which is one that the kids hadn’t really expected to find a woman doing, although Dawn spots the clues which point to what the woman was doing in the area and allow them to realize where she had to be going. Whether more modern kids reading this book would feel the same way about the woman’s profession, I’m not sure.