WILLIAM MURRAY – Now You See Her, Now You Don’t. Shifty Lou Anderson #8. Henry Holt, hardcover, 1994. No paperback edition.

   This is a series that doesn’t seem to get a huge amount of ink, but nevertheless has made to the eighth book and is still in both hard and soft covers. Murray is a New Yorker staff writer, and has written a number of other fiction and non-fiction books.

   It’s just another season at Hollywood Park and Del Mar for Shifty and his buddy Jay — or at least it starts out that way. Then he meets a girl, a very pretty and elusive girl. She’s involved in PR work for a movie star who owns a racehorse and has political aspirations, but she’s non-committal about just what she does, and she’s gone a lot, and she won’t give Shifty her phone number.

   The movie star is a right-winger involved with a group that has had several prominent members murdered in the past year, and the whole thing worries Shifty more than somewhat. Not as much as it worries him after someone shoots him, though.

   Murray is one of those writers whose books don’t seem to stick in my mind, and I’m pleasantly surprised each time I read a new one by how well he writes. His dialogue is crisp and witty, both on and off-track, and his characters are vividly drawn.

   Shifty is a likable first-person narrator, but I found the plot a bit fuzzy in this one. Some of it was deliberate, but still… It’s a different sort of ending.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #17, January 1995.

The Shifty Lou Anderson series —

1. Tip on a Dead Crab (1984)
2. The Hard Knocker’s Luck (1985)
3. When the Fat Man Sings (1987)
4. The King of the Nightcap (1989)
5. Getaway Blues (1990)
6. I’m Getting Killed Right Here (1991)
7. We’re Off to See the Killer (1993)
8. Now You See Her, Now You Don’t (1994)
9. A Fine Italian Hand (1996)

Bibliographic Update:   Barry spoke a little too soon there in his first paragraph. This may have been the first book in the series that didn’t have both a hard and soft cover release. In general, that’s a sign that interest in a series is starting to tail off, and sure enough, there was only the one more.

   For those not familiar with the leading character, most sources describe him as a “part-time magician and lifelong horseracing addict.”