Let’s be honest — most Lifetime movies aren’t exactly exhausting your mental faculties in the plot department. That’s part of the fun of watching them. But every once in a while, one comes along that is a surprisingly good mystery thriller, like Saturday’s (Nov. 12) offering, “Best-Selling Murder.”
Perhaps we should be a little ashamed to admit it — but more so we’re just impressed — that this movie of the week starring Vanessa Ray (“Pretty Little Liars”) kept us constantly guessing, waffling between the various red herrings before finally settling on what we thought was the answer, only to be foiled again in the waning moments.
How did a Lifetime Movie grab us so completely? Let’s break down exactly how “Best-Selling Murder” pulled it off.
The creepy guy red herrings
Within the first 15 minutes, the movie introduces two vaguely creepy dudes obsessed with novelist Hannah Ryan (Ray): First superfan Tanner (Ryan Kelly), who knows more about Hannah’s books than even she herself remembers, and then Marlow (Steven Yaffee), the maybe-voyeuristic neighbor with whom Hannah had previously gone out for coffee.
Both men seem obsessed with Hannah, so when real people in her life began dying in the same manner as their counterparts from her weekly online murder mystery serial, it becomes a question of which creepy dude is responsible — and how will their final showdown take place?
Will Tanner lure her to a fake book event? Can Marlow find a way to get Hannah into his apartment? It felt like a standard Lifetime offering… At first.
The partner red herring
As the movie goes on, it’s clearer and clearer there’s more going on than merely the lone-wolf actions of an obsessed fan — so publishing partner Darby (Tara Spencer-Nairn) comes under suspicion long before their big confrontation, which spells out just how much Darby had to gain by committing the murders from Hannah’s book…
Until Darby gets stabbed. Sure, she could have done that herself or been working with someone, but it felt like Darby was in the clear. It also seemed like her attacker had to be a man, which cast the blame onto…
The ex-husband red herring
Jason (Tyler Hynes), the ex-husband, already established as the worst person in the cast — he cheated on Hannah with her friend, the friend and Jason are now expecting a child, yet Jason still tries to get in Hannah’s pants all the time… He ‘s the worst.
So we, like Hannah, assumed Jason was ensuring her latest book was a huge success so that she would have to pay him more alimony. Until …
We thought we nailed the twist by “figuring out” that Hannah had some kind of split personality and was actually committing the murders herself and not remembering them, hence the weird hallucinations we were seeing when she was writing her novel. We thought those weren’t just her imagination after all.
Sounds like a plausible idea, right?
But we were still wrong! We can’t believe we got played so well by a Lifetime movie!
It turns out the killer was none other than Jason’s affair partner, Julia (Meghan Heffern), and we never suspected her at all.
In our defense, they could have dropped a few more breadcrumbs along the way. Her psychotic rage seemed to come a little out of left field, but still:
Hats off to “Best-Selling Murder” for so successfully keeping us guessing for two hours. It seems like ever since “UnREAL” became the breakout hit the network was banking on, their originals have gotten more and more ambitious — but nothing could have prepared us for a story like this.
What about you? Who was your prime suspect before the big reveal?