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On a foggy night on board a ship bound for Samoa and Australia, undercover agent Scott Pearson tells detective Charlie Chan that he is being sent to Samoa to investigate the sudden appearance of money and artworks stolen from Philippine banks during the Japanese invasion. Later, while the passengers gather in the salon for a ceremony to celebrate the crossing of the equator, Pearson is stabbed in the back and killed. After warning the other passengers to stay where they are, Chan and the captain examine Pearson's room and discover that it has been searched. The captain reassures Chan that Pearson's portfolio is in his office safe, and Chan notices that Pearson's papers mention a man named Lane, but do not identify him. Later, Chan questions the ship's passengers, who include Freddie Kirk, an exhibition knife-thrower; P. T. Burke, a trader in cotton; Professor Henry Martin, an ichthyologist, and Henry's wife Cynthia; Tao Erickson, a half-Polynesian who owns a restaurant on Samoa, and Tao's Polynesian wife Laura; missionaries Rev. and Mrs. Whipple; and Rona Simmonds, an English tourist in love with the ship's purser, George Brace. After he dismisses most of the passengers, Chan speaks privately to Rona and George and, while advising them to speak the truth, asks them to identify Lane. George, however, insists that they have nothing to reveal. Later, Chan sets a trap to catch the killer, but, although an attempt is made on the detective's life, the killer avoids discovery. Chan's son Jimmy checks the knife used in the attack against Pearson for fingerprints, but finds none. Chan then learns that Burke and Kirk are blackmailing Rona. The ship docks in Samoa, giving Chan twenty-four hours to solve the murder before he must leave for Australia. His oldest son sends him a telegram, which explains that Rona's father was an Australian, who was stranded during the war in Manila with valuable art objects, and Rona is now trying to discover their whereabouts. Chan discovers that Rona is traveling under papers that were falsified by Brace and that is why Burke is blackmailing her. Chan questions Burke, but Burke is killed by a thrown knife before he can reveal anything. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Chan's assistant, Chattanooga Brown, stumble upon money hidden in a fish museum near the Ericksons' restaurant. After Kirk is killed, the rest of the suspects converge on the fish museum. Chan learns that Whipple is the head of a gang, which includes the Ericksons, Burke and Kirk, and which planned to sell the stolen art works. The Whipples are then revealed to be Lane and his valet, Joseph Murdock, who was dressed as a woman. Murdock, the murderer, shot the blades through a gun and thus was able to escape detection.