Philip Marlowe meets Terry Lennox outside a club one night in 1949. In 1950, Lennox arrives at Marlowe’s house asking for a ride to Tijuana but does not tell Marlowe details of why.
Marlowe later learns that Lennox’ wife was murdered. Investigators think Marlowe helped aid Lennox in the death. When Marlowe is released from prison, it is revealed that Lennox committed suicide and left Marlowe a note containing a portrait of Madison and money.
Howard Spencer is a publisher who asks for Marlowe’s help in finding one of his prized writers, Roger Wade, who has gone missing. He finds Wade in an isolated ranch. However, after a few more visits to their house and being seduced by Mrs. Wade, Marlowe begins to fear something is not adding up.
Additionally, many people are threatening Marlowe to let go out investigating the Lennox case. He discovers later that Lennox was also known as Paul Marston and was married.
Wade invites Marlowe over for lunch one day. When he goes for a walk midday and arrives back to the house, Wade is dead, apparently having committed suicide. Marlowe interrogates Mrs. Wade and discovers it was actually her who killed both Lennox’s (a former husband) wife and Wade. She then commits suicide admitting to her crimes.
Then, Marlowe is visited by an unknown Mexican man, who states that he was there when Lennox committed suicide. Marlowe states that this is a lie and reveals that the Mexican man is Lennox, who has changed his appearance through plastic surgery.