It took three years for Hallmark to bring back the Gourmet Detective Mysteries, and folks, it was worth the wait. The series has always been a cut above, featuring sharp writing and a quick-witted cast. Each of the previous four movies offered something new without rehashing the same dynamic between its two leads, and this fifth pairing of Brooke Burns and Dylan Neal as a police detective and her sometimes chef boyfriend/crime-solving partner continues to bring a fresh perspective to the series. Roux the Day, again co-written by Neal, trusts its audience’s intelligence and features a layered mystery that’s more than just a crime and a list of suspects. It will have you working twice as hard to connect the dots on your mental pinboard, and even then, you might have trouble piecing together everything before the final reveal.
The case doesn’t start out as a particularly complex one though. Maggie (Burns) and Henry (Neal) come across a dead body while searching an antiques shop for a prized chef’s book, a restaurant’s bible containing all its secret recipes. This particular book holds the key to the success of Belvedere’s, a shuttered but once beloved San Francisco institution. Thought to be long lost, it suddenly comes up for auction and attracts the interest of a number of people who can’t wait to get their hands on it, either to borrow some recipes or just to set eyes on this important piece of culinary history. Before it even hits the auction block, however, the book is sold and then goes missing under mysterious circumstances, which includes the murder of the person who last handled it.
Maggie and Henry zero in on a few suspects right away. He has it out for Elsa (Jennifer Copping), a food critic with a poisonous pen and someone who was pretty upset about the cancelled auction. Maggie, meanwhile, senses something squishy about Leah (Myrasol Martinez), the owner of a relatively new Creole restaurant in town that could use a secret recipe or two to boost its sagging business. The pair also pay a visit to Nicholas Belvedere (Lane Edwards), heir to the family fortune and someone with no interest in the restaurant business, if you believe what he says. The deeper Maggie and Henry get into this case though, the more suspicious characters come out of the woodwork with everyone seeming to have a hand in this one way or other.
Unlike most other whodunnits in Hallmark’s lineup, this mystery will really stretch your coach potato sleuthing skills. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, some new clue worms its way into picture, prompting a reframe of the whole theory. The best thing about this movie though isn’t the case but the relationship between Maggie and Henry. I’ve become invested in the pair, who are different from most other crime solving couples. For once, Maggie takes the lead as the sharp-nosed detective while Henry plays her hapless sidekick, a role reversal done with some humor and humility. More importantly, neither feels the need to prove anything. They’ve reached a point in their relationship where both value the skills the other brings to the team, and though Henry can be sarcastic, his personality never feels overbearing like it did in the early going. Their respect and love for one another guide everything, leading to some unexpectedly touching moments in the middle of a murder investigation.
Highlight for spoilers: While he didn’t pull the trigger, Nicholas Belvedere is the top villain in all this. Nicholas had long known that the restaurant’s popularity was due to a secret ingredient – absinthe – which his family continued to use long after it was banned in food and drink. Josie, the woman in charge of the auction, got ahold of the chef’s book from Milo, the book binder, and decided to sell it, not knowing Belvedere’s dark past. When Nicholas found out, he needed to keep the book out of public view, lest people discover the truth and sue him out of his inheritance. He was in fact the one who anonymously hired Henry to bid on the book. BUT Josie found out about the whole absinthe business, and since Nicholas’s grandfather was her first love, she didn’t want anything to happen to Nicholas and so removed the book from auction. She also asked Milo to make a quick replica without the references to absinthe. MEANWHILE, Nicholas hired Daniel, the guy in the park, to steal the book from Richie, the guy killed in the opening scene. Daniel wanted to sell the book to pay off his gambling debts though, so Nicholas got Dominic to kill Daniel. HOWEVER, the book that these guys were chasing was the forged copy with the original still in Josie’s possession. ALSO and possibly the main reason Nicholas was so desperate to keep the book away from the public was because he was running his own shady operation on the side and didn’t want to invite further scrutiny. He and Dominic were childhood friends, and the latter set up a distillery with the backing of the former. Dominic was flogging this new Emerald Dream drink all around town and it was quickly becoming a hit because he was illegally spiking it with thujone, a derivative of absinthe and a byproduct of wormwood, which Nicholas supplied from his greenhouses.
Dir: Mark Jean
Writer: Becky Southwell, Dylan Neal
Cast: Dylan Neal, Brooke Burns, Bruce Boxleitner, Ali Skovbye, Samantha Ferris, Lane Edwards, Jennifer Copping, Myrasol Martinez,Noel Johansen, Alex Barima
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries