Plot: Aurora (Candace Cameron Bure) is a librarian, so it is no surprise she loves to read, but her literary obsession is a little dark, as she loves to delve into murder mysteries and unravel the clues. At least she isn’t alone in her interest in the mysteries, as she belongs to a local club that meets to discuss various murder cases, even ones buried in rare, obscure books. The group can be competitive, but Aurora befriends many of her fellow members, including one elderly sleuth who puts her into the will, leaving Aurora a remarkable book collection, not to mention a house. But a mystery starts to become evident when shortly after she inherits the home, someone breaks in and seems to have been looking for something specific. As Aurora delves into the strange event, she also finds herself getting deeper into an actual murder mystery, when she uncovers a hidden skull in her new home.
Entertainment Value: Hallmark viewers seem to love these amateur detective movies and the Aurora Teagarden series would turn into quite a franchise, but A Bone to Pick is where it all kicked off. The narrative is fine and I think the book club angle was a wise choice, given Hallmark’s audience and all, while the mystery itself is kind of thin, but is passable. The one issue I’d have is that Aurora herself seems much bolder than she should be, risking life and limb on several occasions, but that’s part of the Hallmark formula, so it makes sense in that regard. I liked the small glimpses into Aurora’s work life and that this first installment doesn’t gun the engine on romance, while the time taken to give a little development to the supporting characters also helped. The club has some colorful characters involved, so the time invested to offer some slight depth was a welcome approach. Aurora is front and center throughout however, so this is not an ensemble piece in the least. As with most Hallmark mysteries, the tone is light and rather predictable, but it the movie has a solid cast and brisk pace, so for Hallmark fans, it earns a recommendation.
As usual, Hallmark’s casting has delivered a likable, fun to watch lead and so it is no surprise this would become a popular ongoing series. Candace Cameron Bure is a great choice to carry the franchise, as she is right in the wheelhouse of Hallmark’s amateur detectives and checks most of the boxes required. Of course, her thespian skills aren’t pushed much with this material, but she performs well and being likable is crucial to these kind of television mysteries. She is able to handle the light romantic elements, which are much lighter than most of Hallmark’s similar efforts, while also hitting the humorous notes when they’re present. Overall, I think she turns in an enjoyable effort and certainly plays off her costars well, with a special mention to her scenes with Marilu Henner, which are a highlight. I wish Henner had more scenes in fact, as she seems to be energetic in the role and is fun to watch. The cast also includes Lexa Doig, Daniel Bacon, Peter Benson, and Bruce Dawson.