From the lips of a dying man at a dimly-lit Italian dock, Guy Van Stratten, the disreputable American fortune hunter, receives invaluable information about the powerful financial titan, Gregory Arkadin. In high hopes that something good might come of it, Guy finally approaches the multi-million tycoon intent on exploiting him, only to be mysteriously hired by Mr Arkadin, to reconstruct his murky past history prior to 1927 instead. But, as the methodical detective scours the globe to put together the dangerously knotty puzzle, people end up dead, gradually closing in on Van Stratten who begins to shed light on this murderously difficult assignment. Are those cases linked together? In the end, has the reclusive magnate something to hide?