"Beers Ahead: A Halloween Mystery" by P.M. LaRose, Liquid Rabbit Publishing, 272 pages, paperback, $16.95
The early October day started with promises of being trouble free for La Scala department store security chief Jim “Beers” Biersovich. His main task for the next few days was to make sure the store’s La Scare-a haunted house was erected on time and with no glitches.
But the peaceful day was quickly interrupted when a scream erupted from the couture sales section.
When he opened a Schiaparelli hatbox to get what was supposed to be a feathery chapeau for a customer, sales associate Arthur Marcheson had discovered a severed head. Beers knows that head. It’s Harry Devin, the “crusty” sportswriter for the Minnesota Herald with whom Beers had once worked.
Beers can’t question Marcheson, as he's fled for the nearest bar, or the customer who screamed and ran from the store. So he turns to Freddie, good friend and sportswriter for the paper who knows quite a bit about Harry’s background; jewelry saleswoman Lena, who is technologically savvy; and cosmetician Tina, who has lots of street smarts.
But first Beers figures he has to loop in management, so he puts the hatbox containing the plastic-wrapped head on his desk for safekeeping. When he returns to his office, hatbox (and Harry's head) are gone.
This really stirs things up for Beers and his amateur detectives. They all find and chase down clues that have them meeting an antique hat collector, searching for missing store merchandise, working on La Scare-a, talking to the deceased’s ex-wives and his niece, deciphering emails from 2ndToNun, having their homes broken into and eventually stumbling upon a clandestine group of Harry’s fellow card players who call themselves “Order of the Hat Trick.”
“Beers Ahead: A Halloween Mystery” is the third in a series of tales involving the former sportswriter-turned-security chief penned by P.M. “Phil” LaRose, a former Advocate employee.
LaRose weaves a love of classic rock 'n' roll throughout the story. When Beers goes to search Harry’s house for clues, he is puzzled by the lack of music — no vinyl, no cassettes, no CDs. It's a clue that factors into pulling the puzzling case together.
“Returning to my apartment, I discovered that once again the power was off on my floor. And once again, my door was ajar ... I lit a candle in the kitchen and discovered that my place had been tossed. My shelves of LPs, eight tracks and cassettes were strewed across the living room floor in a huge pile.
“Taped to the mirror in the bathroom was a scrawled note: STAY OUT OF IT.”
“Beers Ahead" is a good, easy read. And, while I wait for the fourth installment (I do hope there is one) I’m going to check out “First Case of Beers” and “Bet on Beers.”