Mary Whitman, an old friend of Charlie's in Reno for a divorce, finds herself accused of murdering the woman her husband planned to marry after the decree became final.
While Charlie is distracted with the birth of his first grandchild, son Jimmy impersonates his father in order to investigate a murder aboard a freighter in the harbor.
When three employees of a bank are found murdered with cobra venom, Charlie Chan connects the homicides to a case that he had worked on in Shanghai in 1937. Even though he arrested the alleged murderer, Charlie wouldn't be able to recognize him because at the time of his apprehension, his badly burned face and hands were swathed in bandages and he later escaped from the police. Although Chan believes that he is involved with a gang that is stealing valuable radium from the bank vault utilizing tunnels that connect to the area sewer system, his new identity remains a mystery. When a detective disguised as a bank guard is found dead in a tunnel...
Charlie's investigation of a phony psychic during the 1939 World Exposition on San Francisco's Treasure Island leads him to expose a suicide as murder.
Because Charlie Chan plans to return to Honolulu, he no longer needs the services of Birmingham, who gets a job as butler for William and Justine Bonner, two apparently phony psychics, who regularly host occult activities in their home. When Charlie's pretty daughter Frances attends a seance out of curiosity, Mr. Bonner is shot, and she becomes an immediate suspect. Charlie postpones his trip home to help with the investigation, which is made problematic when no bullet can be found in the wound and a hypnotized Mrs. Bonner is compelled to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of a downtown building.
While in Paris for a reunion on the eve of World War II, Charlie finds that the murder of an hated businessman leads him to a conspiracy to smuggle arms to Germany.
When Charlie attends a police convention in New York he learns of sabotage slowing down production in aircraft plants. He, of course, enters the case.
A wax museum run by a demented doctor contains statues of such crime figures as Jack the Ripper and Bluebeard. In addition to making wax statues the doctor performs plastic surgery. It is here that an arch fiend takes refuge. The museum also houses a statue of Charlie. Frustrated number-two son kicks statue in rear; oops, number-two son wrong in his assumption.
Eccentric scientist Harper lives in a spooky mansion with all the trimmings: hidden lab, secret panels, inscrutable butler, and greedy relatives with unusual talents. When Harper seems to be murdered, Charlie Chan (with the uninvited help of No. 4 son) tries to answer such questions as Where's the body? How can a dead man walk? And how can a secret murder be done in full view of detectives and witnesses?
A scientist working on an important new invention which will protect Allied shipping from U-boat torpedoes has been assigned Secret Service security protection. Amazingly, despite the fact that his laboratory and experiments are located on the upper floor of his Washington mansion, he decides to host a dinner party for friends on the first floor. Even though several of his guest are foreign nationals with shadowy pasts, he refuses to allow his bodyguards to attend because their presence might offend his guests. When he is killed by unknown means before he can join them, the resultant summary investigation includes Honolulu detective Charlie C...
Thomas P. Manning, businessman and chess expert, mysteriously shot in a locked room, dies clutching some chess pieces. Police are baffled, and finally abandon the case. Six months later, victim's daughter Leah Manning, stung by a scurrilous book about the case, enlists the aid of Charlie Chan and Number 3 Son. Additional murders follow, leading to a climactic confrontation in a seemingly deserted "Fun House."
Waldo and Irene have been living with Margit for the four years that they have been engaged. Margit has planned the wedding and the honeymoon - in fact, Margit plans everything down to what they will have for breakfast every day. The only problem is that Waldo is a milquetoast and Irene does not want to be married to a milquetoast. So she says she is in love with Charlie, a bohemian artist/producer who lives in a trailer behind Spike's Place. When Margit confronts Charlie about giving up Irene, Charlie sees that she is the one for him. To make everyone happy, Charlie will have to help Waldo get a backbone.
A woman rents a gloomy basement apartment in Greenwich Village thinking it will provide the perfect atmosphere for her mystery writer husband to create his next book. They soon find themselves in the middle of a real-life mystery when a corpse turns up in their apartment.