Manhattan socialites Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan choke the life out of an associate, David, as an intellectual challenge to commit the perfect murder. Not content to escape the penalty of law by simply disposing of the body quietly, they furthermore devise an elaborate and dangerous display of arrogance: The two stuff David's lifeless body into a chest and throw a dinner party serving their guests, literally, from the convenient tabletop of the young man's grave. In attendance are Mr. Henry Kentley and Mrs. Anita Atwater, the victim's father and aunt; Kenneth Turner, the victim's rival for the hand of Janet Walker, David's fiancée, who also attends; Mrs. Wilson, the servant; and Rupert Cadell, the murderers' former teacher whose flippant repartee regarding social caste festered into the pathological short circuit that led to Brandon's and Phillip's crime. Brandon's sense of intellectual superiority swells to reckless levels throughout the evening as he makes a nail-biting game out of cleverly dropping his guests hints at nasty goings on. Meanwhile, Phillip grows increasingly frightful and guilt-ridden as Rupert inches ever closer to discovering why David hasn't yet arrived at the party.