It's San Francisco, 1928, and Sam Spade is a wisecracking, womanising Private Investigator. Missing husbands and unfaithful wives are his usual stock-in-trade, but when the beautifully distressed Miss Wonderley calls he gets involved in a dangerous caper most people would run a mile from. Miss Wonderley asks Sam's partner, Miles Archer, to shadow Floyd Thursby, whom she maintains has kidnapped her sister. But then Archer is shot dead, and Miss Wonderley's story turns out to be a lie.
Lord Peter Wimsey has married at last, having finally succeeded in his ardent pursuit of the lovely mystery novelist Harriet Vane. The two depart for a tranquil honeymoon in a country farmhouse but find, instead of a well-prepared love nest, the place left in a shambles by the previous owner. His sudden appearance, dead from a broken skull in the cellar, only prompts more questions. Why would anyone have wanted to kill old Mr Noakes? What dark secrets had he to hide?