Lou ""Shifty"" Anderson, the L.A.-based magician/horse-player who starred in Tip on a Dead Crab and The Hard Knocker's Luck, returns--in an episodic, rather ragged outing that's weak as mystery, a bit short on the racetrack atmosphere that made Shifty's debut so engaging, but fairly diverting all the same. Working as a sleight-of-hand whiz in Vegas, Shifty meets Pavarotti-like superstar tenor Fulvio Gasparini--a hopeless compulsive gambler who quickly adopts Shifty as his (well-paid) advisor on all betting matters, including the track prospects of the singer's own recently bought Thoroughbreds. But those in Fulvio's entourage--mistress, vocal coach, horse-trainer, beautiful manager Jeanine Lagrange--resent our hero's involvement in the star's affairs; Shifty is further distracted by a mysterious series of attacks on him--and by a sudden, sizzling liaison with glitzy Vegas performer Simone, an insatiable sexual athlete with a homosexual husband (her partner in an animal/magic act). So it takes a while--and a trip to NYC (where Fulvio is opening as Otello)--for Shifty to figure out who's been cheating the Mafia-connected super-tenor. . .and why. Most of the plot is see-through from the start; the surprising portions, hinging on long-term revenge, are unconvincing. And Shifty isn't quite as consistently likable as before, while Fulvio is an unimaginative Luciano clone. But the narration and dialogue are brightly neo-Runyonesque; the locales, from casino to track to opera house, are keenly sketched (Shifty falls hard for Verdi); and Murray's blend of earthy substance and sophisticated manner remains jauntily distinctive.