Eat, Drink, and Be Buried: A Gourmet Detective Mystery (2017)

So this is how it ends. The Gourmet Detective rides off into the sunset, never to be seen or heard from again. I hope Hallmark will bring it back, but if not, at least the show left on a high note. Probably the best Gourmet Detective yet, this film has everything you want and expect from a series that has consistently excelled in both acting and storytelling. The characters continue to reveal new things about themselves, and this latest mystery is an intriguing tangle of clues and suspects.

It’s a simple case of murder, as far as these things go, and the killer must be one of several family members. Our detectives, Maggie Price (Brooke Burns) and Henry Ross (Dylan Neal), once again find themselves involved in the investigation due to Henry’s connections when the couple, together now for three months, are invited to the birthday party of Henry’s friend, David Weston (Garry Chalk). During the festivities, David, the owner of a centuries-old family publishing house, has his son and step-son reenact a duel from family lore, but the reenactment turns deadly.

Doug (Chris McNally) shoots Ken (Toby Levins) by accident, or so it seems. He’s made no attempts to hide his dislike for his step-brother since his father married Ken’s mother years ago, and now David’s recent decision to hand the business to his step-son has increased their hostility. But the Weston boys are not the only ones holding grudges; the Weston daughters are also at war. Felicity (Vanessa Walsh) and Angela (Brittney Wilson) can’t be in the same room without clawing each other’s eyes out. (Not really though; none of this King Lear nonsense.) Both are suspects – Felicity as a possible accomplice to her brother Doug, and Angela, along with her husband, Colin (David Paetkau), for financial reasons. Everyone is shifty AF, whether they’re hiding affairs or just looking at each other wrong. When other family members start falling victim to unexplained accidents, it seems there might not be any Westons left.

They’re not the only ones with a problem, however, and Maggie and Henry have their own issues to work out, though none as deadly. Maggie, for good reason, resents Henry’s secrecy about his past when she’s been generous about hers. A little spat over his upcoming birthday could turn into something more serious and threatens to doom the romance. An unexpected appearance by Henry’s father, Jim (Bruce Boxleitner), forces the couple to talk things over though.

The quality of the show’s writing and acting is best reflected in the development of Maggie and Henry’s relationship. When I started the series, I didn’t like the Gourmet Detective at all. I found him condescending and felt that Maggie could do just as well without this bloated male ego. However, each episode added a new layer to the characters, and we got to see the couple cycle through different types of partnerships, first as adversaries, then as reluctant collaborators, then as supportive colleagues, and finally as romantic partners. Burns and Neal are both excellent and take us through their characters’ growing pains. The former radiates poise and calm, and I’m inclined to side with her whatever the situation. Neal, on the other hand, takes on a trickier part, but he deftly navigates Henry’s faults and charms, revealing a side to him that is not all vanity. Had the series continued, I would have liked a regular role for Jim because in this story, he showed that Henry also used his bluster to hide feelings of hurt and anger.

There are a lot more stories Gourmet Detective could have told, and can still tell…hello, Hallmark. I haven’t mentioned the Maggie’s colleagues much, but I enjoyed their larger presence in the last two movies. Not only do we get to see Maggie working with the junior detectives, but her captain (Samantha Ferris) gets to do more than stand around giving orders from her office door. I like that there are two women running the operation, and that rivalry and pettiness isn’t part of the picture at all.

Highlight for spoilers: Colin the Killer. Contrary to his claim that he was operating a robust food business (frozen meals, protein powder, the like), Colin was actually losing money, a lot of it. He wanted to kill Ken and his father-in-law so that Doug would be in charge of the company, betting that Doug would then sell it and give Angela part of that money. He cut Felicity’s brake lines because she got suspicious after hearing that the business was up for sale, which she knew to be false.

Released: 2017
Dir: Mark Jean
Writer: Becky Southwell, Dylan Neal
Cast: Dylan Neal, Brooke Burns, Matthew Kevin Anderson, Mark Senior, Ali Skovbye, Samantha Ferris, Shannon Chan-Kent, Brenda Crichlow, David Paetkau, Brittney Wilson, Garry Chalk, Vanessa Walsh, Chris McNally, Toby Levins
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019