Tony Rome is an ex-cop turned private investigator who lives on a powerboat in Miami, Florida, called "The Straight Pass". This is a reference to the fact that Tony also has a gambling problem. He is asked by his former partner, Ralph Turpin, to take home a young woman who had been left unconscious in a hotel room.
The woman, Diana (née Kosterman) Pines, is the daughter of rich construction magnate Rudolph Kosterman, who subsequently hires Rome to find out why his daughter is acting so irrationally.
After regaining consciousness, Diana discovers that a diamond pin that she had been wearing the night before has gone missing. Diana and her stepmother Rita hire Rome to find the lost pin.
Rome is chloroformed and beaten by a pair of thugs, and Turpin is found murdered in Rome's office. Lt. Dave Santini of the Miami police investigates the crime scene and demands information from Rome, who is an old friend.
Rome gets help from a seductive divorcee, Ann Archer.
An attempt is made on Kosterman's life, and a jeweler is found murdered.
Rome discovers that Diana's has been selling her stepmother's jewels and giving the money to Lorna, her biological mother, but also that the pin (mailed to Rome by Turpin after trying to fence it) was a fake. Tracking down an unknown man with a gimp leg he calls catleg, Tony determines that Rita was being blackmailed and had previously sold the real jewels to pay her ex-husband's blackmail demands.
The trail leads to Rita's dead ex-husband and Diana's step father, Adam Boyd, an abortion doctor stripped of his license, who ordered the killing of Kosteman believing Diana would then inherit his entire estate (as Boyd had found documents showing Rita's current marriage was void), and that Diana would then provide generously for her mother.
The case solved, Rome invites Ann for a romantic getaway on his boat, but she decides to go back to her husband.
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