Hannah Swensen (Alison Sweeney) is back for round two of To Catch a Murderer, Christmas at Lake Eden edition. Just as the holiday preparations are going into overdrive, the baker-cum-detective stumbles onto yet another dead body. Larry Jaeger, the owner of the local tree lot, is found shot in his office, and there is no shortage of suspects. Fingers quickly point to his fiancée, who got engaged a mere six weeks after settling her deceased husband’s estate. But Larry’s ex-wife, a radio DJ who goes by the moniker Dr. Love, also has reasons to see him dead. The news of his shady financial dealings only adds to the suspense.
Okay, it doesn’t actually. If the first two movies are anything to go by, the Murder, She Baked series will not have anyone on the edge of their seats, at least not for reasons of crime. The real mystery is in the romance, which is probably right in line with the filmmakers’ priorities. In A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery, Hannah was introduced to two potential suitors. Her mother, Delores (Barbara Niven earning her paycheck), is eager to match her older daughter with dentist Norman (Gabriel Hogan), who by Hannah’s own admission is incredibly kind and stable but also predictable. Mike (Cameron Mathison), an out-of-town detective brought in to solve the cookie case, offers a little more excitement but she also worries about the dangers of his job.
I don’t see why this would be a particular concern for her since she is always diving head first into murder investigations. A few dumb moves on her part leaves her vulnerable and in need of saving again, which Mike happily does. You have to admire him for swallowing his substantial ego this time. While he still asserts his authority when Hannah starts poking about, it’s more out of his concern for her safety than out of professional chauvinism. But Norman is no slouch, and finding a predictable man is not a bad thing when you’re in your mid-thirties. I should know. So what really needs to be solved here is whether audiences come down on the side of Team Mike or Team Norman.
As for the festive atmosphere – this is in Hallmark’s holiday line-up, there’s a lot of window dressing. (I realized today that Hallmark and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries are two different channels. Could’ve – did fool me.) Trees, lights, and helper elves are everywhere, but the movie doesn’t push too hard on celebrating the spirit. Even the plum pudding is relegated to a cameo. That’s fine since there are a hundred more TV shows and films that do just that. There are a few bubbly attempts at the feels in the closing scene, which proved just enough for me.
Prod: Harvey Kahn
Dir: K.T. Donaldson
Writer: Nancey Silvers
Cast: Alison Sweeney, Cameron Mathison, Lisa Durupt, Barbara Niven, Gabriel Hogan, Juliana Wimbles, Johanna Newmarch, Ona Gauer, Kirby Morrow, Farah Fath, Toby Levins, Colleen Winton, Richard Keats, Kazumi Evans, Kyla Wise
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries