Watching the Murder, She Baked series as akin to indulging in a warm chocolate chip cookie…and then a plum pudding and then a peach cobbler. I should be snacking on a fruit cup, but my impulses lead elsewhere. These movies, adapted from books by Joanne Fluke, hit my light entertainment sweet spot. They’ve got me hooked in just enough that I willingly come back for more.
We last left off at Christmastime, when our heroine baker, Hannah Swensen (Alison Sweeney) was sitting down for a cozy holiday dinner with her family and both love interests, having solved yet another murder. This movie picks up a few months later, during which time a new bakery has opened shop across the street.
Out-of-towner Melanie (Michelle Harrison) is the owner of Magnolia Bakery and is using her signature peach cobbler to draw customers, including police inspector Mike (Cameron Mathison), away from Hannah’s Cookie Jar. When Hannah stumbles upon her rival’s dead body, however, she suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of a police inquiry. With Mike keeping his distance due to the investigation, she turns to her other potential suitor, Norman (Gabriel Hogan), to help her solve the crime.
The movie tries to spice up the murder mystery recipe a bit by making Hannah the suspect, but it doesn’t taste all that different. The general trajectory of the story remains the same, and her heightened role in the case merely serves as another obstacle rather than a fundamental shift in perspective or proceedings. As with the previous film, the case does more to facilitate the romance than to really pique one’s interest in crime solving and psychology.
And that’s okay with me because what I really want to know is who Hannah’s going to end up with. I’m pulling for nice Norman, who gets to be more than the genial dentist here. In a scene that unabashedly conforms to stereotype, he uses his manly charm and dashing good looks to compel a weak-willed woman to divulge classified information about another suspect, someone who may be connected to the victim’s sister. Mike doesn’t exactly take the back seat in all of this, but he does end up on shakier ground with Norman stepping it up and after some of his own past is revealed.
I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to the next Lake Eden murder, which is shaping up to be a damn dangerous town. (So much for Minnesota nice.) And despite the fact that Hannah cannot get a grip on how to handle armed suspects, the town is small enough and filled with enough people who care about her – her chirpy younger sister, her dramatic mother, her practical-minded brother-in-law – that you know she’ll be alright in the end.
Dir: Kristoffer Tabori
Writer: Teena Booth
Cast: Alison Sweeney, Cameron Mathison, Lisa Durupt, Barbara Niven, Gabriel Hogan, Michelle Harrison, Anna Marie DeLuise, Roark Critchlow, Juliana Wimbles, Toby Levins
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries