Plot: As the holiday cheer begins to peak and Christmas lurks right around the corner, Hannah (Alison Sweeney) finds herself even busier than usual, with a deluge of orders from her loyal customers. Her bakery The Cookie Jar is always popular, but this time of year sees a marked surge in business, though she enjoys making sure all the locals have delicious treats. The focus on her business isn’t seen as a positive by everyone however, as her mother Delores (Barbara Niven) would like to see her devote more time to her social life, especially her love life. As it stands, Hannah has interest from two suitors, but her mother wants her to make a choice and settle down. Meanwhile, a mysterious murder at a local Christmas tree farm has also captured Hannah’s attention, since she can’t restrain her curious nature. The list of potential suspects is substantial, but can she somehow solve this tough case, deliver her cookies on time, bask in some romance, and still have a Merry Christmas?

Entertainment Value: This installment of Murder, She Baked has romance, mystery, and even holiday cheer, so it has all the Hallmark ingredients. The narrative is about what you’d expect, a straight forward murder mystery blended with the aforementioned romance and some personal drama, with the Christmas season touches to round off the rough edges. If you’ve seen the first Murder, She Wrote or other Hallmark mysteries, then you also have an idea of what this movie has in store, as it follows the usual Hallmark formulas. As I’ve said before however, that isn’t bad news, as the formula works and has drawn in countless viewers for Hallmarks, so while predictable, the movie knows its audience. The mystery is well crafted, if simple, but that is needed, as it often takes a backseat to the romance or personal drama of our lead, which means things can’t get overly complicated. The shifts in narrative focus keep things light and brisk, though the Christmas elements are the least utilized, so that is more or less just the backdrop for the rest of the movie. So come for the romance or mystery, as the holiday cheer is more set dressing than not. If you’re a fan of these Hallmark mysteries, this one is recommended.

This is the second installment in the Murder, She Baked series and several prominent cast members return, which should delight fans. The performances here are solid across the board, but no one really stands out as all that memorable, more likable and solid, which isn’t a complaint. As the material doesn’t push the cast to flex their thespian skills, you can’t fault the performers in this case. I found Alison Sweeney to be one of the best parts of the first Murder, She Baked, so I was pleased to see her back once again and her performance here falls in line with the previous effort. She has several threads going on, what with the murder mystery, two men vying for her attention, and her baking duties, but she makes it all work well enough. The role doesn’t ask much of her in terms of depth or emotion, but she is a likable lead and does what she can to make the character have good presence. The romance angle kind of falls flat at times, due more to lack of on screen development, however. The cast also includes Cameron Mathison, Lisa Durupt, Babara Niven, and Gabriel Hogan.

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