Gambler/magician ""Shifty"" Lou Anderson made his narrator-hero debut in Tip on a Dead Crab (1984)--which was weak on mystery, thin in its attempt at romantic drama, but zestfully strong on Runyonesque atmosphere in and around the L.A. race-track scene. And now, though Murray's suspense-plotting remains watery and predictable, Shifty himself comes into far better focus, with a much more absorbing affair-of-the-heart. Again, as in Dead Crab, Shifty's infatuation with a problematic lady leads him into peril: this time it's lovely Allyson Meade--top-notch nurse, sometime shoplifter, and estranged wife of smarmy art-dealer Julian (a blatant philanderer). Can Shifty (footloose, 40-ish) and Allyson (earnest, 30-ish) go beyond friendship and sex to something more lasting? That's the main story here--along with intriguing subplots about Allyson's psychic race-track predictions and her brief, altruistic stint as a racehorse-owner. The mystery-action is more routine: Shifty's old pal Freddie, renowned loser and one-time painter, has suddenly gotten wealthy from some enigmatic dealings with glossy Julian; and Shifty soon finds himself caught up in an implausible grand scam (forgery, art-heists)--trying to protect Allyson and save Freddie. . .while all three of them are stalked by the brutal hit-men of a cartoonish villain. Slim pickings for sleuthing fans, then--but Shifty and Allyson make an appealing, offbeat couple, solidly backed up by a large, vivid cast of supporting players.