New York dilettante Philo Vance decides to assist the police in investigating the death of another man-about-town because he finds the psychological aspects of the crime of interest, and feels that they would be beyond the capacities of the police, even those of his friend District Attorney Markham. Vance investigates the circumstances under which the body was found and reconstructs the crime sufficiently to determine that the murderer is five feet, ten and a half inches in height. Together, Vance and Markham investigate Benson's business associates and romantic interests until Vance manages to pierce the murderer's alibi for the time of the murder and force a confession.
Philo Vance is a fictional amateur detective originally featured in 12 crime novels by S. S. Van Dine in the 1920s and 1930s. During that time, Vance was immensely popular in books, films and radio. He was portrayed as a stylish, even foppish dandy, a New York bon vivant possessing a highly intellectual bent. "S. S. Van Dine" was the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright, a prominent art critic who initially sought to conceal his authorship of the novels. Van Dine was also a fictional character in the books, a sort of Dr. Watson figure who accompanied Vance and chronicled his exploits.