(If you're interested in an audio edition, Michael Pritchard's unabridged narration is pretty good.)
We begin with the murder of a man who had no life: Leonard Dykes, fished out of the river on New Year's Day, a confidential clerk in the law firm of Corrigan, Phelps, Custen, and Briggs. No family (other than a married sister in California), no lovers, no unsavoury habits, no money problems (neither debts nor a large net worth), no problems with his job. Somebody somewhere, though, hit him on the head before leaving him to drown, and ransacked Dykes' apartment, but the only thing the Manhattan homicide squad could find was a single sheet of paper in a book, with a list of men's names, none of whom could be found in New York City.
Stuck, Cramer pays a call at the brownstone, but Wolfe can only suggest that Dykes or someone he knew had tried to come up with an alias for someone, but never used it. Cramer, frustrated (and embarrassed at having sunk so low as to ask for help without getting anywhere), leaves it at that.
Six weeks later, John R. Wellman hires Wolfe to find the man who killed his daughter Joan; he's not satisfied with the Bronx's handling of the case. From a letter, he knows that after Joan rejected a manuscript - "Put Not Your Trust", by Baird Archer - for her publishing firm, Archer had made an appointment to see her privately and get feedback on how to improve it, and the appointment coincided with her death. But nobody can find either the man or the manuscript. Wolfe has no information that the police don't have - collectively, between Manhattan and the Bronx - but he remembers that "Baird Archer" was one of the names on Dykes' list. So begins the hunt for "Put Not Your Trust", beginning with a search of all the typing services in the city - and soon another murder is added to the tally, that of typist Rachel Abrahms, only minutes before Archie could speak to her.
Stout has given us a real story here - where the lives of the survivors have been torn up with the loss of their daughters, with a man who's going against the advice of his pastor and his wife in hiring Wolfe. Not that it's a tale *only* of human suffering; Archie's telling it, after all. As balance, Wellman's a bit disturbed by Wolfe's tactics at times, particularly when Wolfe decides to have Archie go to work on extracting information from the female clerical staff of Dykes' law firm. Fritz nobly offers to help with the ladies, since there are so many. :)