Technically, two plus two does not equal murder, but something is not adding up when a teacher goes missing. Hailey Dean (Kellie Martin) finds herself embroiled in another criminal case that hits close to home, this time at her niece’s school. She attends a fundraising performance organized by Naomi Sacks, who fails to turn up that night or in the days following. Surveillance footage, however, shows she was at the school on the night of the performance, and Hailey and team try to figure out if Naomi was targeted by someone she worked with or by real estate interests who wanted to buy the school’s property.
The investigation immediately targets her stalker ex-boyfriend, Jeff Adkins (Carey Feehan), but Hailey’s observations also land several teachers on the suspect list. Naomi’s coworker, Janine (Ellen Ewusie), was passed up for promotion, and she seems not at all bothered by the fact that Naomi might be murdered. Two other teachers, Mary (Samantha Cole) and Nicholas (Chad Riley), also have ever-changing alibis, none of which can be accounted for. Meanwhile, Rob (Brent Stait), the friendly janitor, goes on my list because the janitor always knows the secrets. As the investigation continues, a left field suspect appears. Hailey’s old acquaintance, Clyde (Chad Lowe), a real estate developer, would rather the school not meet its fundraising goals so that it will close and he can scoop up the land.
Clyde is more than an acquaintance or a suspect though. He’s also best friend to Hailey’s murdered fiancé, Will, and seeing him reminds her that she still has a lot of grief to process. But shit’s hard, and she’s finding it difficult, especially since learning that she, not Will, was the killer’s target. I was hoping we’d get some solid leads on this case, but this film doesn’t dig into that. I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting, which is fine because we get to see her relationship with her coroner boyfriend, Jonas (Matthew MacCaull), unfold in the meantime. It’s been awhile since I saw the previous films and had forgotten about Jonas, but damn, what a man, the best amongst all the Hallmark detective boyfriends. He is not the possessive, condescending type, and he loves that his girlfriend is smart as hell, but what most impresses me about him is that he doesn’t try to compete with Will. In fact, he wants Hailey to keep a special place in her life for her fiancé and understands that he won’t be part of that.
This storyline has always been my favorite part about the series and is the reason why I look forward to watching each new movie. The cases are never anything explosive and are comparable to all the other ones on Hallmark Mysteries, but unlike Garage Sale Mysteries or Aurora Teagarden, this show is saturated in sadness and loss. It’s not for everyone, and if you’re coming to this channel for its sunny, Marple-esque tones, you won’t find them here. The series even goes down the spooky slasher route every now and then, like the opening scene where Naomi is snatched from a dark construction zone illuminated by an eerie green glow. Where there are moments of levity though, like Fincher’s (Viv Leacock) quest to find Atlanta’s best taco truck, Hailey does her best to bring them back down. It’s not all sun, but it is true to her character.
Highlight for spoilers: The one person I didn’t suspect turns out to be the guilty party. The principal, having stolen the renovation money and then losing because of his online gambling, killed Naomi when she found out and told him she was reporting him. He then killed Jeff Adkins because he had the gambling receipts that would prove his guilt.
Dir: Michael Robinson
Writer: Michelle Ricci
Cast: Kellie Martin, Giacomo Baessato, Viv Leacock, Matthew MacCaull, Emily Holmes, Andrew Airlie, Chad Lowe, Keith MacKechnie, Tom Butler, Hilary Jardine, Brent Stait, Ellen Ewusie, Samantha Cole, Chad Riley, Carey Feehan
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries