Joel and Garda Sloane run a rare book business in New York City. To supplement their meager income, Joel recovers stolen books. Insurance man Steve Langner drops off a check for his latest success. The couple also tries to help Ned Morgan, recently released from prison, find a job; they do not believe he was guilty of the theft of books from dealer Otto Brockler. Ned is in love with Brockler's daughter Leah.
Eli Bannerman barges into Otto's office, despite the best efforts of secretary Julia Thorne. Otto is not pleased to see his business associate. He warns Eli that Joel is snooping around, but reluctantly agrees to take another shipment of fake first editions created by Sid Wheeler for $5000. Eli tells Sid that Otto only paid $2000. Incensed, Sid insists on going to see Otto to complain.
That night, Otto is struck with a bust sitting on his desk and killed. Ned is the main suspect, especially since he was seen entering the office around the time of the murder.
When Sid suggests that Eli might have killed Otto, Eli slugs him. Sid produces a gun, ends their partnership and takes Eli's wallet, full of cash.
Joel begins seeing Julia, pretending to be attracted to her in order to try to obtain information. Julia eventually tells him about a secret compartment in the office which holds the books Ned supposedly stole, but Ned is arrested before Joel can notify the police.
Meanwhile, Eli convinces Sid that Joel is after him, sure that he is the murderer. Sid shoots at Joel on the sidewalk, but Joel is only hit in the buttocks. Later, Eli kills Sid and takes back his money.
Then he hires Danny Scolado and Paul Terison to murder Joel. The two knock Joel out, but do not kill him right away; instead, they tie him up and stash him at a hideout. Having seen how concerned Eli was, Danny talks him into paying more money. In the meantime, Joel frees himself and knocks Paul out. When Danny and Eli return, they spot Garda following them and take her prisoner. Joel is forced to give up his gun, but Garda manages to disconnect the lamp. In the confusion, Eli gets away, while the police arrive and take Danny and Paul into custody.
Joel then goes to confront Julia. He has figured out that she killed her boss. Eli shows up with a pistol, but Joel manages to wrestle it away from him and hands him and Julia over to the police.
Sky Movies wrote, "nostalgia fans will catch their breath at a list of suspects that includes some of Hollywood's most distinctive character actors of the day: Louis Calhern, Shepperd Strudwick, Dwight Frye, Douglass Dumbrille, Thurston Hall, George Zucco and Horace MacMahon among them."