Another day, another movie, but this one is sweet, even though there is some blood around. The first half of A Zest for Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery accomplishes nothing, but the investigation really picks up in the second half. While the ending is not entirely unpredictable, the steps in the middle come with their own importance, which makes this a great watch, and here is the summary and ending of A Zest for Murder.
Who is Hannah Swensen?
Like us, if this is your first Hannah Swensen mystery, you may need a bit of background on her to fully enjoy A Zest for Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. What we gleaned from the movie is that she is a baker who gets entangled in mysteries and is often the one who solves them, much like the detectives we read about as teens (Nancy Drew, Secret Seven, and Famous Five). She has two sisters and a mother who is a bit too much to handle, but the family is her biggest support, other than her boyfriend Mike, whom she is taking a break from. In a previous case, he seems to have hidden some things from her, including how he was under a lot of pressure from the Sheriff and how much was at stake for him. We are guessing that led to him lying to Hannah and probably working against her at times. That has Hannah questioning whether she wants to continue the relationship and give them a second chance since she has already dealt with a failed marriage. This is as far as Hannah Swensen’s background is concerned, which is relevant to this film. If you want to know more, you would have to watch the prequels to A Hannah Swensen Mystery.
What is the mystery of the movie?
Rhonda Scharf is a regular customer of Hannah’s bakery, and one day, when she doesn’t pick up her pie, Hannah goes to deliver it to her and finds her talking to a man outside her house. Rhonda tells her that it was her brother and proceeds to inform Hannah that she will be leaving the town soon. Rhonda doesn’t know where she is going, but she definitely doesn’t want to live in Lake Eden anymore. That is why she has put her house on sale, and the next day, Hannah comes there with her sister and realtor to check it out, but to her shock, they find the dead body of Rhonda. This comes as a shock to everyone since they were close to Rhonda in some capacity, and finding her body like that also places a certain curiosity over the people.
In the immediate investigation, the suspect is Jed Sawyer, a plumber who has just returned from prison after serving some time for a mishap that happened a few years ago. He is trying to get back on his feet, but people are apprehensive about giving him a second chance. Meanwhile, his tools have been found buried near Rhonda’s house, and they were also the murder weapon. But while suspicion is on Jed, he is not being arrested since the tools don’t have any fingerprints on them. Meanwhile, Hannah and her mother, Delores, continue their own little investigation. Hannah doesn’t want the culprit to be Jed because she is caught up in her feelings regarding second chances due to what is happening in her life. She wants to believe that Jed has changed as a person, and he wouldn’t do that to Rhonda, because unless she believes that, she won’t be able to commit to giving Mike another chance. During the investigation, Hannah finds two suspects. One is Ken Purvis, who is an important member of Rhonda’s club, and the other is the man Hannah saw outside Rhonda’s house the day before she died.
What is Ken Purvis guilty of?
It is Delores who first suspects Ken Purvis, and she discovers that he had fired Rhonda from the club just days before the murder, and nobody knew why she had been let go, especially since she had been such a good and long-standing member of the club. Initially, Hannah is not overtly focused on Ken as a suspect, but when she is sneaking around Rhonda’s house, she finds a letter addressed to him in which Rhonda has spoken about the misappropriation of funds happening in the club. Since no one else knew about it in the club except Ken, and he had fired her the moment she brought it up, it is understood that he is the one stealing the money for his own personal use. To deflect suspicion from himself, he had accused Rhonda of being a shoddy bookkeeper, being distracted in general, and not focusing on her job, to justify why he had fired her. But he was not the killer of Rhonda Scharf.
Who killed Rhonda Scharf?
The mystery in the middle of Rhonda’s murder is the case of the missing coins. Rhonda and her brother Thomas had inherited them from their wealthy aunt, and Rhonda had forcefully kept them in her possession. Thomas is sure that she wouldn’t sell them, but they are missing from the house.
Meanwhile, when Hannah meets Thomas, she recognizes that he is not the man she had seen outside Rhonda’s house. Therefore, she tries to piece together the clues to find him, and white-doodling a symbol she saw on his shirt, a customer who is also an ex-flame, leads her to the company she is looking for. The man turns out to be Clint Abrams, someone that Rhonda was dating and who was also seeing Karen, which is why she had been secretive about it. Clint wanted to give his relationship with Rhonda another chance, but the woman was leaving town, and there was no changing her mind. He even has an alibi that he was out fishing, and while we don’t know whether that is verified, it is safe to assume that he is not the conclusive suspect. But in the end, it all comes together for Hannah by chance. When she discovered the body along with her sister and mother, the sister took some pictures of the place immediately. As Hannah is going through the pictures, she sees the calendar on Rhonda’s refrigerator set to May. But just minutes before, Hannah had seen it set for April. That means that the person who killed Rhonda probably had access to her house and was probably there with them at the time. As expected, when Hannah sketches over the date, she finds an imprint of a name, and that is Johanna, the realtor. She had met Rhonda on the day she died, and she was also the murderer.
During A Zest for Murder‘s ending, it is revealed that Johanna had killed Rhonda, so she did not reveal that she had stolen some of those antique coins. Johanna wanted to sell them because her business had been down, and she was mostly out of money. When Rhonda found out, Johanna had to kill her. The movie ends with Johanna being taken away and Hannah and Mike eventually reconciling their relationship.
It is not a word we would attach to a murder mystery, but A Zest for Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery was sweet. It reminded us of Castle in some respects, especially Delores, who was so much like Martha Rodgers. In some ways, the film actually feels Christmassy, and we are surprised at that feeling. In brief, this is a cute holiday watch.