Framed for Murder: A Fixer Upper Mystery (2017)

My mother is the reason I fell down the Hallmark Channel rabbit hole, since she’s not partial to the slow burn dramas I favor and I don’t watch the cooking shows or singing contests she likes. We’ve managed to compromise on white bread TV romances and murder mysteries, however, and she recommended the Fixer-Upper series after I burned through the Garage Sale Mysteries – not a good way to spend an extended holiday, by the way. “It’s the one with Jewel,” she said. “You know, the singer Jewel. She remodels old houses. I mean the character, not the singer.” With such an enthusiastic recommendation, I just had give it a try.

It turns out that Jewel does add something special to your run-of-the-mill murder mystery. She has the quiet confidence of an actor who doesn’t need to dominate every scene she’s in, and that allows her sincerity to shine through. And while I like or at least don’t mind most of the other actresses that parade through Hallmark’s TV movie factory, they often seem to try extra hard to be strong Lifetime women when they could try to just be women. Jewel’s strength and that of her character naturally comes through in her honest and understated performance.

She plays fixer upper Shannon Hughes, who owns her own restoration business and is the first person folks in Lighthouse Cove call when they need some work done on their turn of the century property. Shannon meets Mac Sullivan (Colin Ferguson), a newly famous crime novelist and investigative reporter who wants to enlist her services but who is also quick to voice his sexist assumptions about her line of work. They quickly make amends, and she even offers to let him stay in her renovated backyard shack while she’s doing up his new house.

The partnership is immediately put to important use when Shannon’s friend and neighbor, Jesse, is found dead in his own house, presumably from a nasty fall. She thinks there’s something more sinister, however, and carries on her own investigation when the police downplay her suspicions. (Point for black police chief played by Colin Lawrence, who has multiple lines and appears in multiple scenes.) Mac is all too eager to lend a hand, and the two start poking around only to realize that their own friends might be involved. Shannon’s other neighbors, a gruff guy who’s always peeking out his window like the guilty bastard he is – or maybe isn’t – and his hot son later revealed to have financial problems, top the suspect list, but they aren’t the only ones with secrets. Even Jesse, a deep sea treasure hunter, neglects to tell his friends and family about a valuable necklace that once belonged to a Portuguese princess.

The mystery itself isn’t that compelling and takes a few detours outside of Lighthouse Cove. I often feel when these small town detective stories stray too far outside city limits, they start to lose focus. The sense of familiarity between characters and place binds these worlds together, and since this is the first installment, it would be nice to get to know the quaint town a little better. Jewel and Ferguson share some good chemistry though, and it’s a bonus that they can develop a relationship without rushing headfirst into romance.

Released: 2017
Dir: Mark Jean
Writer: Peter Hume, Teena Booth
Cast: Jewel, Colin Ferguson, Erin Karpluk, Ron Lea, Colin Lawrence, Laura Soltis, Marcus Rosner, Ken Tremblett, Bill Dow, Jason Cermak
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2017

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