Ruby Herring Mysteries: Her Last Breath (2019)

Hallmark Movies and Mysteries debuted six new mystery series in 2019, which turns out to be about three too many. They should probably cull some in the new year, starting with Ruby Herring Mysteries. While the first movie was weak, the second one is even worse. At least Silent Witness featured a case with actual suspects; Her Last Breath, by contrast, will put you to sleep. It concentrates most of its attention on one potential killer without bothering to build a web of viable suspects and motives, nor does it feature any subplots, not a single, solitary one. I wouldn’t mind a dull mystery if the people investigating it had a bit more personality, but they lack even that.

Ruby (Taylor Cole) and Jake (Stephen Huszar) are just not who I want to spend time with. Both are great at keeping their distance, though they do it in their own way. Ruby, a TV reporter who investigates consumer goods, seems nice enough, but I can’t imagine much more than a superficial dinner party chat with her. After two episodes, she still feels like a stranger. I know she likes yoga and drives a Mercedes and sometimes she has a burger at the diner with her dad, but that’s all I’ve got. Jake, a police detective, has a bit more of a personality, just not one I like. He comes across as smug and a bit insufferable, instinctively smirking at Ruby’s every suggestion or scoop. I want to be on his side, but Huszar doesn’t give me enough reason to care for him.

Come to think of it, the most developed and sympathetic character in this movie might be Roger (Andrew Francis), the suspect in Ruby and Jake’s latest case. Ruby once again strong arms her way into police business when her interview subject dies after driving off a cliff. Further investigation reveals that Natalie, the owner of a popular natural foods and lifestyle brand, was poisoned in the week leading up to her death, possibly by smoothie. Suspicion falls on Roger, the resident smoothie guy, and for some reason, he becomes the focus for a good half of the film. We end up knowing more about his background and temperament than that of anyone else. Only later does the story zero in on others, like Natalie’s sister and boyfriend, who may have benefited from her death and her sizeable fortune.

The lopsided storytelling throws everything off-balance. The pacing detracts from the mystery since it takes too long to build up any suspense, and by the time the pieces start coming together, no one’s interested. On top of all this, there’s nothing to break the monotony of the case. An easy subplot would be the workplace rivalry between Ruby and the sleazy reporter who seems willing to cut corners for an exclusive, a guy the news director wants to pair her with, but that never gets off the ground. We don’t even get a wacky bear cam story, and we deserve at least that for sitting through this movie. The one trade-off is a casting change that has Ruby’s father looking age appropriate and not like her older brother.

Highlight for spoilers: If you guessed Amanda from the jump because she’s closest to Natalie and seemingly the most innocent, then you were right. As Natalie’s COO, she funneled millions from Oceans Aware into her own shell company. Either because Natalie found out or she changed her will or maybe some other reason – sorry, the movie got to boring and I didn’t get the specifics, also I watched it at 2 a.m. and turned the volume way down so as not to wake the house – Amanda poisoned Natalie with the foxglove she was growing in her garden. She then painted her SUV white to throw off police and planted evidence on Roger because they had just broken up and why not set up your talentless ex?

Dir: Fred Gerber
Writer: Andrea Canning, Lynn Keller
Cast: Taylor Cole, Stephen Huszar, John Wesley Shipp, Christina Cox, Chelsea Hobbs, Ryan Rosery, Karen Holness, Matthew Kevin Anderson, Andrew Francis, Mig Macario, James Kot, Chenier Hundal,Rachel Hayward, Kehli O’Byrne, Maria Turner
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2020