Synopsis of Murder Is No Joke
Alec Gallant was a member of the French Resistance during World War II and at that time married another member, Bianca. After the war, he learned that his wife and her two brothers had been traitors to the Resistance. He murdered both men, but Bianca escaped him.
Gallant came to the United States in 1945 and rejoined his sister Flora, who had immigrated from France several years earlier. Gallant became a highly regarded couturier (as Wolfe later terms him, “an illustrious dressmaker”) with a studio employing several staff, including Flora. A successful Broadway actress, Sarah Yare, is a valued customer, one who is well liked by all of Gallant’s employees.
Into this happy mix comes Bianca. She has changed her surname to Voss and insinuated herself into Gallant’s operation, making decisions about company strategy, apparently with Gallant’s approval. Gallant has kept information about his past with Bianca to himself, hiding it not only from the staff but also from his sister, Flora. Everyone at Alec Gallant Incorporated is mystified that Gallant is putting up with Bianca’s odd and counterproductive decisions, particularly because she seems to have no formal title or position at the company.
Fearing for her brother’s career, Flora calls at Nero Wolfe’s office and asks him to investigate the situation. She has only $100 to pay Wolfe’s fee, but she says that her brother would be grateful to be rid of Miss Voss, and he is a generous man. Wolfe points out, though, that it’s not Mr. Gallant who would be hiring him. Flora suggests that they phone Bianca, and invite her to Wolfe’s office where he can ask questions of her, and then, “We shall see.” In reporting this exchange, Archie Goodwin claims that it is Flora’s choice of phrasing, instead of an informal “We’ll see” or “We will see,” that moves Wolfe to acquiesce.
Flora uses Archie’s phone to call Miss Voss, and gives Archie the handset as Wolfe picks up his own phone. After identifying himself to Miss Voss, Wolfe becomes the target of a string of insults hurled by Miss Voss – “You are scum, I know, in your stinking sewer.” – and then both Wolfe and Archie hear a thud, a groan, a crash, and a dead phone line.
Archie calls Gallant’s offices back, and asks for Miss Voss. Archie and Wolfe learn that Miss Voss has just been found dead in her office. When they inform Flora, she seems stunned, and hurries from the office.
Synopsis taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_Is_No_Joke