Nick Charles is happily retired from the private detective game, but when the police pressure him into helping look into a recent murder, his socialite wife Nora wants in on the investigation. What happened is that wealthy Clyde Wynant is missing, and his daughter Dorothy wants Nick to help find him. Nick demurs until Nora urges him to help her out. Nora wants to see Nick in action and be part of a real-life investigation. It'd be more exciting than their usual life of getting drunk and sleeping in late. So Nick agrees, then makes himself a drink.
Then Clyde's girlfriend, Julia Wolf, turns up dead. The police figure Clyde is the likely killer, seeing as how he's missing and all. Nick becomes slightly more interested in the case, after having another drink. He pokes around and tries to talk to some shady characters who knew Julia, but all he gets is a few guns pointed in his face. Nora has a martini.
Before long there's another body, one that's been dead so long that it's just bones. The bones are wearing a fat man's clothes, so they couldn't be Clyde -- he's The Thin Man. But Nick, drink in hand, thinks otherwise. He thinks the bones are Clyde's body, and that he was killed by his attorney, Herbert Macaulay, in order to get at his fortune. Macaulay hired some thugs to cut him up and put him in the fat man's clothes, then bribed Dorothy's mother Mimi to say she saw Clyde after he was already dead.
Nick gets Mimi to tell the police about Macaulay's bribe to her, and the attorney attacks Nick, who knocks him out with one punch. After it's all done, Nick and Nora celebrate with a drink.
Best part of story, including ending:
A boozy, hardboiled couple who solve murders in 1930s New York. What's not to like?
Best scene in story:
On several occasions, Nick has to redirect Nora's energy and enthusiasm as she attempts to play detective, bouncing theories off of him, suggesting motives, asking him questions that she thinks he hasn't yet considered. It's all playful fun between the two.
Opinion about the main character:
Nick comes off as lazy in the beginning, but in reality he's using that perception to his advantage. He tricks others into thinking he's just a layabout drunk, while carefully observing their behavior and reaching sharp conclusions about their actions and motives.