Garage Sale Mystery: The Novel Murders (2016)

Perhaps a weekend bender on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries’ Garage Sale Mystery wasn’t a great idea. Maybe it was the ambitious three murder episode, maybe it was a character’s unlikely visit to a psychic, or maybe it was the guilt of having watched so many of these movies. Whatever the reason, by the time I made it to mystery #6, the thought of cleaning all my dishes and laundry suddenly seemed the better option.

I was looking forward to The Novel Murders, with its pulpy premise and nod to classic mysteries. When antiques dealer Jennifer (Lori Loughlin) notices that the death of an elderly man in his own flat resembles a murder – by nicotine! – from an Agatha Christie novel, she thinks there might be a serial killer on the loose. But her amateur sleuthing has got everyone put off, including her friend and detective Frank (Kevin O’Grady), who figures an old, lonely guy isn’t worth the trouble of a full investigation. Also, why can’t this woman stop solving murders that the police mistake for natural deaths and accidents and just stick to selling old bird statues? Jennifer’s tenacity uncovers enough clues to convince Frank to dig deeper though, and it couldn’t come at a better time because two more deaths follow, also patterned off classic murder mysteries.

If there’s a theme to this movie, it’s shady people and their shady lies. No one is particularly trustworthy, not even Jennifer’s husband and son, who aren’t honest about a camping trip they take to prove they can rough it. Meanwhile Jennifer engages in some undercover work and sets out to learn more about a life coach, itself a suspicious profession, and his connection to the first victim. A tweedy, egg-like British academic specializing in Sherlock Holmes and an affable mystery writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of detective fiction may also be too smart for their own good.

These are at least your typical cast of characters. In a story that is supposed to hide secrets and keep you guessing, they play their part, which makes the appearance of a psychic frustrating. Jennifer’s business partner, Danielle (Sarah Strange) has taken on the role of perpetually single thus sort of unhappy and unfulfilled best friend and is someone who would put down a few extra bucks to get her fortune read, but she’s not dumb and gullible. She works in a consignment shop and regularly checks out garage sales; the woman knows how to sniff out cheats. That she puts increasing trust in a bird-like psychic who is clearly a fraud and out to manipulate other women is perhaps the bigger mystery. This movie already packs in quite a bit and doesn’t have room for this sloppy subplot.

Released: 2016
Dir: Peter DeLuise
Writer: Walter Klenhard
Cast: Lori Loughlin, Sarah Strange, Steve Bacic, Eva Bourne, Connor Stanhope, Kevin O’Grady, Ken Tremblett, Gerard Plunkett, Fiona Vroom, Barbara Wallace
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2017

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