Synopsis of The Silent Speaker
Cheney Boone, the Director of the Office of Price Regulation (ORP) is beaten to death with a wrench. The murder occurs shortly before a speech he will deliver at a meeting of the National Industrial Association (NIA). The NIA is an important conglomerate of great interests of business. There is considerable antagonism between the two parties, and the public begins to hold the NIA responsible for the murder of Boone. This attracts the attention of Nero Wolfe. Having his bank account at minimum levels he plans a strategy for the NIA to hire its services to find the killer.
Wolfe organizes a meeting between the main witnesses of the case. The widow and niece of Boone, the interim director of the ORP, Solomon Dexter, and the investigator Alger Kates. The executive committee of the NIA, and members of law enforcement , including Inspector Cramer and Sgt. Purley Stebbins.
The meeting soon degenerates into chaos and disputes, but Wolfe is intrigued by the absence of Phoebe Gunther. She was Boone’s private secretary and the last person who saw him alive, so he orders Archie to take her for questioning. Once before Wolfe, Phoebe claims that Boone gave him a leather case full of confidential dictation cylinders shortly before his death, but misplaced them.
When Wolfe calls another meeting of the main witnesses, Phoebe once again does not appear. But this time, her body is discovered on the side of the front steps of Wolfe’s house. She has been brutally beaten with a rusty tube. It is clear that Phoebe’s murderer is one of the main witnesses, and that Boone’s murderer is more than likely to be also. After discovering nine of the ten cylinders in Phoebe’s apartment, both Wolfe and Inspector Cramer convince themselves that the lost cylinder is the key to the murder.