Joe Streeter, piano-playing proprietor of Pal Joey's on 52nd Street, returns for another bleed-and-sleaze adventure in which he gets hurt a lot, lies to the cops a lot, and makes out a lot. His current bedmate is easygoing Alice (""She seemed to spend a lot of time in the buff""), the talented half of the Pal Joey's magic act--who has in her possession a passel of precious jewels and knickknacks that once belonged to Empress Carlotta of Mexico. When a pair of thugs tries to lift this hoard from Alice's dressing room (in the middle of a show), she flees, leaving Joe to kill in self-defense. Then the club's comic shows up dead, and Joe gets tough with the surviving thug (who happens to be an Italian count): ""Insult me with another lie, and I will defenestrate you quicker than you can say knife."" The ending's a foregone conclusion for any reader's who's ever gone the hard-boiled route before, but the action's active, the chat is raunchy, and the dregs-of-show-biz atmosphere suitably depressing.