So, there was this guy in San Francisco named Harald Wolfe - we're talking 1921-1922 - who got around Prohibition Law by pretending to sell near-beer cheap, while actually selling real beer at high prices. That was illegal, it affected how you kept your books, and of course the less people at your brewery who know about it, the better. Up around 1940, that last bit is what's known as a Suspect List, for Whit Whitney, uh, Accountant, and Webster the Police Detective. But that's later.
Harald Wolfe got muscled out of the illegal beer market by tougher people who didn't like Harald doing well in their field...and after that, two big things happened: (a) Harald died parachuting out of an airplane with a serious altitude problem, and (b) the Government had somehow found out about Harald's illegal income - but, the way it goes is (Al Capone found out about this), he was supposed to pay tax. Like, a lot of tax. It's still income, I guess. So an accountant did his best to help Harald and his brewery square things with the US Tax Dept., but this did involve a big cheque, moneys paid. All settled.
No - no noo - no. Years later, we have Whit Whitney, Accountant, whose partner gets killed. That was the guy, George, who sorted out Harald Wolfe's big back-taxes bill. And just before he got murdered, this accountant fellow - a bit of a ladies' man, wife not pleased with his track record (that's what's known as filling out a suspect list if you don't just assume the murder links to the taxes mess) - just before he got slain, George had been taking a look at the old case of Harald Wolfe and supposedly discovered that something was not quite right. Looks like maybe someone else got some of the profits from the illegal brew. And if that were the case, Harald's lovely daughter Marian would be owed money by the Government...because that would mean Harald over-paid. Anyway, it's all kind of complex, and the murder might not even have anything to do with beer and money from 1921-22 - and sure, this cop Webster wants to use dead George's partner, Whit Whitney, as bait to try and get the killer to strike again...y'know, like, you leak a story that George confided in Whit before he was killed. But that would be very unfair to Whitney, and also very dangerous. Whitney would rather just try and solve the murder of George himself.
This book is a blast. It has action and suspense, but there is also a fun whodunit, lots of style and San Francisco, and a corker of an ending. And I don't just mean the reveals. For fans, I would say, of both The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon.