We’re Off to See the Killer

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

“Shifty” Lou Anderson is a closeup magician—a sleight-of-hand artist—working in Las Vegas. He is one of the greatest manipulators of a deck of cards around; and would be the best, if he were not frequently distracted from magic by his other passion—horse racing. Anderson loves the animals, the challenge of handicapping, and the people who share the lives of the horses: his fellow gamblers, the trainers, the grooms, and the jockeys. His current girlfriend is a lady groom. Interfering in what would otherwise be a happy life is what one of his friends calls Anderson’s “gift” for becoming involved in messy situations.

In this, the seventh of William Murray’s mysteries starring Anderson, the magician temporarily takes over administrative responsibilities at the track for Charlie Pickard, a trainer temporarily sidelined by a heart attack. Shifty’s primary responsibility is to keep the owner of Clarendon Farms happy, so that Pickard will be allowed to continue training Old Roman, Clarendon’s prize two-year-old colt, a horse destined for greatness. Soon, however, Shifty realizes that there is a conspiracy to manipulate the betting odds on Clarendon horses. He not only finds out who is responsible for the orchestration in odds but also uncovers an international money laundering scheme and an insurance fraud. Shifty also identifies a particularly sadistic murderer, one who enjoys breaking the fingers of his victims. Nevertheless, he ultimately fails in his mission for Pickard. In the end, there are few winners in Shifty’s world, only those who have lost less than others.