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In the wake of her husband's death, Lena Mitchell (Jennifer Taylor) decides that the best thing for her and her teenage daughter Ashley (Rachel Rosenstein) is a fresh start somewhere else. After moving to a new town to open a bakery, Lena is quick to befriend two fellow business owners—coffee shop barista, Heather (Rachel Amanda Bryant) and yoga studio owner, Jenny Wallace (Jade Harlow).
Lena also meets hardware store owner Michael Ashford (Ryan Patrick Shanahan), who appears to take a quick romantic interest in Lena. But it doesn't take long for Lena to hear about a mystery from Michael's past. His wife Beth (Laurie Fortier) mysteriously vanished, with Heather refusing to believe that Beth would just leave town without a word of explanation. As Lena finds herself pulled further into this mystery of the past, she also finds herself being romanced by Michael. But as people begin to disappear again, Lena must find out if Michael has a hidden dark side to him—or if someone else is behind the strange events plaguing her new town.
In Bed With a Killer has a plot which has served as a template for many a Lifetime films: Woman moves to new town to escape troubled past, gets pulled into a dark secret from the town's past, and begins to suspect that the person responsible is someone she's grown close to. But despite this familiarity, In Bed With a Killer (originally given the far less memorable title A Deadly Romance) sets itself apart for how well it handles the mystery portion of this drama. Soon after introducing us to this small town with a dark secret, we see Lena and Ashley become acquainted with a fair amount of people—all of whom give you a reason to suspect they aren't all that they appear. Even Lena shows signs of hiding something at times, making for an intriguing view as the audience wonders who the true guilty party might be.
Casting also helps strengthens this movie's plot escape potential mediocrity, with Jennifer Taylor and Rachel Rosenstein sharing great chemistry as a mother and daughter struggling to move forward from their tragic loss. Ryan Patrick Shanahan is also charming as the flirtatious Michael, while also dropping hints that there may be something else lurking underneath his rugged good looks. Jade Harlow is also strong as the equally suspicious Jenny, and in his first IMDB-recorded film role, Joseph Mann makes a strong impression as Jenny's adorably awkward son Charlie, particularly in his scenes alone with Rosenstein as their characters form a romantic connection. Al Sapienza, a familiar face on Lifetime, also appears as local sheriff Hank, exuding charm into his small role that makes him a blast to watch, despite his role fulfilling the almost requisite "Unhelpful Police" trope in this kind of Lifetime mystery.
A particular shining star on the cast, however, is Rachel Amanda Bryant as cute barista and residential Nancy Drew type Heather. Despite much of the characters viewing Heather as a paranoid busybody, Bryant takes Heather's potentially irksome character and makes her empathetic. We see how the disappearance of her friends has taken a toll on her, as well as her desperation to prove the guilt of who she believes to be the culprit. As a result, Heather becomes a rounded character that the audience is bound to root for, making the fate that befalls her all the more upsetting.
(Also, as much as I love Jennifer Taylor's performance as Lena, part of me wishes there was a version of In Bed With a Killer with Heather as the main protagonist.)
In Bed With a Killer won't be for everyone, as the third act becomes a slow boil as the pieces all come together and some may feel the culprit is revealed a bit too early. Also, for all her likable qualities, Lena occasionally comes off as condescending and insensitive towards Heather in her attempts to dissuade her from obsessing over her friends' abrupt disappearances, which is bound to rub some the wrong way. Despite that, this is one mystery drama Lifetime does a solid job in constructing, with strong characters and a well-crafted mystery that culminates in a satisfying and emotionally charged conclusion. Those interested in a solid and entertaining Lifetime mystery should look no further than In Bed With a Killer.
Score: 8 out of 10 free cupcakes