Now back in San Francisco after their holiday in New York, Nick and Nora find themselves trying to solve another mystery. It’s New Year’s Eve and they are summoned to dinner at Nora’s elderly, and very aristocratic, family. There they find that cousin Selma’s husband Robert has been missing for three days. Nick reluctantly agrees to look for him but the case takes a twist when Robert is shot and Selma is accused of murder. Several other murders occur but eventually Nick gathers everyone into the same room to reveal the identity of the killer.
This is the second installment of the Thin Man series, the story picks up from where "The Thin Man" left Nick and Nora.Arriving home after three days on the train, Nick and Nora were looking forward to spending a quiet new year with just each other. But their house was occupied by drunken friends; and Nora's most uppity relative, the spinster Aunt Katherine, called and insisted that Nora and Nick join her New Year's Eve family dinner. Nora did not care for her aunt but she agreed to go, mainly to visit her distraught cousin Selma Landis.Aunt Katherine had not changed her mind about the flatfoot to whom poor Nora was married, but she needed Nick to discreetly investigate the disappearance of Selma's playboy husband Robert. Selma's mental condition was beginning to deteriorate and Aunt Katherine was worried that even with the close supervision of psychiatrist Dr. Kammer, the scandal will break out and ruin the Forrest reputation.After dinner, Nick and Nora went to say goodbye to Selma before leaving, and met David Graham. David used to be engaged to Selma and was still in love with her. Furious about the way Robert treated Selma, David told Nick that Robert wasn't really missing, he just had enough of Selma and wanted a divorce. He even promised David that if he pays him $25,000, he will divorce Selma and get out of the way.Nick and Nora decided to spend New Year s Eve in a seedy but popular Chinese club called Lichee, managed by ex-con Dancer, once arrested and sent away by Nick, and Lum Kee, whose brother was also arrested by Nick and was still in jail.They found Robert at the club. He had become a regular at Lichee because of the starring singer/dance girl Polly Byrnes, and was planning to run away with her once he gets the money from David. Polly was not in love with Robert, and kept things up with Robert just so that she and boyfriend Dancer could scam money from him. Running into Nick and Nora made Robert, Polly and Dancer uneasy, and Robert decided to not wait for cash and told David that he will take anything and leave town that night.David met Robert secretly and gave him a stack of bonds, and a happy Robert went home to pack up. He woke Selma in the process, the two had a fight, Robert said his final word and stormed out. Selma lost her nerve and ran out after him.David was worried about a confrontation between Selma and Robert and he went back to the Forrest mansion to check on Selma, only to find her standing over Robert's dead body with a gun in her hand. David took the gun and disposed of it for Selma, told her not to mention the incident to anyone.A hungry Nora woke Nick up so that he can make her some scrabbled eggs, and while they were in the kitchen, someone threw in a stone with a note attached to it. Asta, who's being irritable lately because he found out that one of Mrs. Asta's puppies was definitely not his, but that of a black Scottish terrier, got to the stone before Nick and Nora. A chase broke out and when Nora finally got the note, the most important part of the note was already eaten by Asta.Nick and Nora went back to bed and slept till early evening the next day. When Lieutenant Abrams dropped by to tell Nick to that they've ran out of leads, Nick decided to follow the clues from the note and visit Polly's ex-con husband Ralph West, now known as her brother Phil.Nick and Abrams found Phil murdered with the same gun that killed Robert, other evidence was planted and took them no where; except a key to Polly's apartment. Having lost all other leads, Nick decided to check out this one.In Polly's apartment, Nick noticed a hole on the ceiling and went to check the apartment directly above hers. The tenant's name was Anderson, a fake name; and in the apartment, Nick found contraptions that allowed a person to listen in and a makeshift ladder to climb down and enter her apartment through the window.As Nick was testing the earphone, Dancer came back to Polly's apartment, he sensed that someone was upstairs and made a run for it. Nick pursued him and was shot at. The shots missed him, but they did shoot open a box, from which the dead body of the apartment janitor Pedro fell out.Nick now knew exactly what happened but didn't have any strong evidence, he and Abrams decided to test their luck and gathered everyone in Polly's apartment, to see if they can trick the murderer into making a mistake.So arrived the suspects: Dancer, Polly, Lum Kee, Aunt Katherine, Dr. Kammer, David, and the grieving widow Selma.It turned out that Robert was not killed over money, but from a deep hatred; the death of Phil and Pedro were just the results of the murderer, the mysterious Anderson, trying to cover his tracks.Anderson found out everything by listening in to Polly's conversations with Dancer, Robert and Phil. He would have climbed into her apartment to plant incriminating evidence had he not been locked out by Pedro. Pedro found out about the special contraptions while doing repair works, changed the lock on the door and called Nick. Anderson heard the phone call and killed Pedro.Anderson then followed Robert until he stepped out of the Forrest mansion and killed him. Knowing that Phil was following Polly and Robert, Anderson killed him too.Crowded and pressured by the cool Nick, jumpy Abrams, and irritating Aunt Katherine, Anderson remained calm. But when it was revealed that the janitor Pedro was once Nora's father's gardener, Nick caught him. All suspects who knew Pedro merely stated that they knew him, only David added a description of him, a description that would describe Pedro the Janitor, not the younger Pedro the gardener.David pulled out a gun and was about to kill both Selma and himself when unexpectedly, Lum Kee came to everyone's rescue. Nora had been wary of Lum Kee the whole time, thinking that he might harm Nick. But It turned out that as Nick sent his brother away, Lum Kee got the chance to go after his brother's girlfriend, whom he likes a lot more than his own brother.Unable to find peace in San Francisco as well, Nick took Nora and Asta on the train again. Noticing that his wife was not paying attention to him, Nick put down his cocktail glass just long enough to get a closer look at what Nora was knitting. It was a baby shoe.