Garage Sale Mystery: Guilty Until Proven Innocent (2016)

“You’re a murder magnet,” someone says to amateur sleuth Jennifer Shannon (Lori Loughlin). After besting the police department and solving four murders that had been written off as accidents, the consignment shop owner and garage sale enthusiast finds another case to occupy her free time, though if we’re being honest, she should really be trying to figure out how to keep her failing business afloat. She thinks she has the solution when a former high school friend, Sandra (Kirsten Robek) contacts her wanting to sell the inventory of her own antiques store. That effort gives way to a more pressing matter when Sandra’s fiancé, believed to have left her two years ago for another woman, appears in her cellar, dead. Everyone, by which I mostly mean the police, assumes she’s the killer because hell hath no fury like an antiques dealer from the sticks, but Jennifer is convinced that her frenemy wouldn’t just leave her fiancé’s body to chill out in a hole in the ground all this time.

Meanwhile, back at their store, co-owner, Danielle (Sarah Strange), is offered her dream job of managing an art gallery by a posh older lady. The woman, looking like someone who would tell you to your face that you really should wax that moustache, thinks she knows how to poach her potential employee. Not only does she try to coax Danielle out of her humble little corner shop with promises of a fatter paycheck, classier clientele, and trips to Paris, she dangles the prospect of rich, art loving men in front of perpetually single Dani’s face.

It’s nice to see Danielle emerge from the shadows. She’s been the quirky sidekick long enough, and this show needs someone who will take consequential stands every now and then. The same goes for Jennifer’s son, Logan (Connor Stanhope), who wrestles with the choice of helping his friends hack into the school’s grading system or reporting them. I was more invested in their decisions than in anything Jennifer’s done because despite Loughlin’s calming presence, or one consequence of it, is that her cases or more interesting than her character.

Part of the problem is that like the other leading ladies in Hallmark’s mysteries, she’s constantly being undercut by a man. Her other half is more insistent than ever that she stop fooling around with this investigating nonsense, despite her obvious talent for it. These husbands and lovers admire their clever partners but always feel the need to step in so as to keep their womenfolk safe. The message that they’re really sending is that sleuthing should be left to the (male) professionals and would you please get back to your inoffensive day job.

Released: 2016
Dir: Peter DeLuise
Writer: Walter Klenhard
Cast: Lori Loughlin, Sarah Strange, Steve Bacic, Eva Bourne, Connor Stanhope, Kevin O’Grady, Kirsten Robek, Aliyah O’Brien, Valerie McNicol
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2017

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