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Just as his seemingly plain, bespectacled secretary, Peggy Cummings, is about to leave him after weeks without pay, wisecracking private detective Clay Holt receives a case and an invitation to a formal dinner party from wealthy Mr. Davidson. Romantically unattached, Clay, a former police detective, asks Peggy to accompany him to the dinner and is startled to discover how beautiful she is with her hair down and her glasses off. Other partygoers include Clay's bumbling former police partner, John Aloysius McGinnis, Davidson's daughter Elaine, her husband, Willis Purdy, her ex-husband, Courtney Mallory, and an ex-convict, Jerry Papolas. After Davidson is murdered during the party, suspicion is thrown on Purdy, Mallory and Papolas, although Elaine is also implicated when Clay sees her pick up and hide the gun used in the crime. Clay escorts Elaine home, where they discover that a pearl necklace, the ownership of which is unclear, has been stolen from Purdy's wall safe. Purdy then receives a call from a man who demands $50,000 for the necklace's return. Clay steals the murder weapon from Elaine in order to check it for fingerprints, and goes to his apartment, where Peggy waits for him. After Clay leaves to talk to Mallory, his apartment is broken into, but Peggy escapes with the gun. Clay finds Peggy the next day, and despite interference from McGinnis, who resents Clay's deprecating remarks and superior sleuthing abilities, they continue their investigation. Clay accompanies Willis to the ransom drop, while Peggy finds out that the fingerprints on the gun and Purdy's wall safe are the same. Clay returns to Peggy with a note from the necklace thief, which she can fingerprint, and they both go to the Purdy home. There, Purdy fires Clay and puts McGinnis in charge of the case, but Clay refuses to leave as the thief is coming at eleven o'clock to return the necklace. At the appointed time, an intruder comes through a window, and the lights go out as shots are fired. When the lights come back on, the group discovers that Purdy is dead, having been killed in self-defense by Papolas, the intruder. Clay explains that Purdy, whose fingerprints matched those on the note, gun and safe, set up Papolas by paying him to play the thief. Clay then reveals that Purdy, an employee of Davidson, had tampered with Davidson's financial books, for which Mallory was blamed, and committed the murder and theft to cover it up when Davidson found out. With Mallory's name cleared, he and Elaine reunite, while Clay and Peggy contemplate their future together.