Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Anyone?

My wife works for a company that likes to send her to another part of the state for training a couple of times a year. The last time was late in March, for a week. I’m not a huge TV person. We have a few shows we watch together and that’s about it. We both like movies though. She loves the dancing, singing feel-good kind and I do too, to a point. I like mysteries even better. I tend to fill up the DVR with all the mystery movies that will fit and then watch them in the evenings when she’s away.

That’s what I did in March. For a couple of weeks, before she left, I scanned Spectrum’s listings and recorded all of the mysteries I could find, that I hadn’t already seen. Back when I was a younger devotee of all things sleuthing, I loved shows like ‘Murder, She Wrote’. I watched every episode. These days, that show and several other oldies but goodies play on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel. That channel has, in the last few weeks, been a boon to my mystery movie watching habit.

Real Murders Aurora Teagarden Book 1I recorded a few ‘Murder, She Wrote’ episodes for old times sake but I was more intrigued by all of the original ‘cozy’ style mystery movies playing on the channel. There were mysteries based on the Aurora Teagarden series of books by Charlaine Harris (of Sookie Stackhouse book and television series fame). Aurora, or Roe, as she is more commonly known, is a woman after my own heart, a crime-solving librarian.

Garage Sale Stalker by Suzi WeinertThen, there are the  ‘Garage Sale Mystery’ movies starring Lori Loughlin in stories that revolved around sinister things that happen surrounding items she buys at yard sales, garage sales, estate sales and so forth. The sort of ‘shopping’ that’s always been a hobby of mine. The movie series is based on the Garage Sale Mystery series of books by Suzi Weinert.

A High End FinishIt didn’t stop there.  Hallmark has produced mysteries starring singer/songwriter (and poet) Jewell; the Fixer-Upper Mysteries’. She and Colin Ferguson go around renovating old Victorian homes and solving crimes. Those movies are based on the popular Fixer Upper Mysteries‘Series by author Kate Carlisle.

Murder in the court house by Nancy GraceAlso, there are the Hailey Dean Mystery movies based on the book series written by former television legal and political commentator, Nancy Grace. Hailey is a former prosecutor so there’s an element of the legal professional aspect to these books and movies.

And, let’s not forget the original, made for TV (by Hallmark) ‘Mystery Woman’ movies starring Kellie Martin that aren’t based on actual books, but that take place inside the ‘Mystery Woman’ bookstore. There are 11 separate cozy style movies that are among the first Hallmark mystery movie productions. Hallmark first aired them from 2003 to 2007. They’re enjoying quite a resurgence.

There are other series, of course. I recorded a couple of dozen of these little 2-hour gems…as many as my older model DVR would hold. I’m still going through them and occasionally watching or recording ones I missed in the first go around. This weekend, there’s a new Aurora Teagarden one on, ‘Reap What You Sew‘. It doesn’t seem to be based on a specific Harris book, but I’ve already got it set to record; just in case I’m involved in ‘life’ and I can’t stop to watch.

I put a video link in here for a sneak preview but, in case it doesn’t work, here’s the direct link: Reap What You Sew Sneak Peak. 

I’ve enjoyed my little breaks, watching books I’ve loved and stories that are similar to them come to life on our not so small screen. I dare say, I’ve even learned a couple of things about the construct of a good mystery. Those things said, I find mysteries adapted for television from books all a bit lacking when it comes to the element of surprise and the presentation of clues.

I’ve been able to easily solve the identities of the killers early on in most of the movies. There’s typically a visual clue that gives it away if you’re sharp-eyed enough to catch it the first time it’s presented. As a writer of these sorts of puzzles, I just sit there and think, ‘that thing they just showed, that’s going to be important later.’

 In so many of these movies, the obvious suspects are never the killer. Never. It’s typically a bit player, someone who’s been helping the sleuth all along or someone who doesn’t seem like a major player until the third act…what would be the last few chapters of a book. Often, I’ve noticed, the killer has an unwilling accomplice who covers for them out of fear for his or her own life or out of some sense of misplaced loyalty. Sometimes this person becomes the second victim. Other times, he or she hangs on to the bitter end and goes down with the killer or has a change of heart and gives the killer up.

Knowing the killer early doesn’t ruin my enjoyment of the movies. I still get a kick out of them. What it does do – with the ones based on books – is make me go back to the original novel and see what the author did to hide the killer. You certainly don’t get visual cues in a book. To keep you guessing, the author needs to weave a good story around the clues she drops.

How are you at solving the crimes in a mystery movie?

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