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New York detective Sam Campbell is summoned to the country by Larry Borden, who fears that he will be accused of the murder of his former father-in-law, Harvey Carr. Larry had worked as a concert pianist until Carr cut off his hand with an ax in an argument. During a search of the murdered man's house, Sam and his secretary, Robbie Vance, find pieces of a broken horseshoe and lipstick-stained cigarettes. They also notice that the table is set for breakfast, although Sam pronounces the bread to be stale. Their investigation is interrupted by the arrival of Irene Carr, Harvey's daughter and Larry's ex-wife. Sam and Robbie hide outside and watch Irene through the window as she opens the safe. Sam checks her horse's hooves, but all its shoes are intact. Searching the boathouse, Sam finds the body of a handyman, killed, like Carr, with an ax. Later, in the office of sheriff Max Ambers, Sam questions Irene, who is there with her fiancé, singer Paul Goff, and Horace Grayson, her secretary. She explains that Carr owned a chemical plant that worked on war contracts. After Irene and Goff leave the office, Sam accuses Ambers of not investigating Irene because he wants her newspaper to back him in his re-election campaign. When District Attorney Hyatt later offers Sam a fee to help him solve the murder, Sam convinces Larry to turn himself in. Sam then asks Robbie to check some papers that he stole from Grayson's briefcase. In the meantime, Sam discovers a horse with a broken shoe at a nearby stable, and its owner explains that the horse strayed away during the night. When Sam returns to his hotel, Ambers is searching his room. For a fee, Sam explains that Carr was murdered at night, and that the breakfast things were set out to cover up the real time of the murder. Then Sam questions Ann Marlow, Goff's agent and Larry's former agent. Later, Sam joins Irene, Goff and Grayson in the hotel bar where Goff is performing. He tells them that he took the papers from Grayson's briefcase and refuses to return them. When Goff sneaks into Sam's room looking for the papers, Amber arrests him. Privately, Sam tells Goff that he knows he is married and will tell Irene unless Goff talks. Ann is waiting at the jail and Sam tells her that Goff will tell all he knows in the morning. The next morning, however, Goff is dead, an apparent suicide. Sam explains that Goff proposed to Irene in order to get access to a chemical formula developed by her father. Carr was killed when he grew suspicious and began to oppose the marriage. Goff was not guilty of the murder, however, as he was performing that night and did not have time to get to Carr's house. When Robbie realizes that the lipstick on the cigarettes that Sam found at the Carr house match Ann's, they set a trap for her. Ann is revealed to be the murderer and the head of a spy ring that employed her clients for espionage. Now that the murder is solved and Larry's name is cleared, Robbie and Sam head back to New York.