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Hallmark Mysteries and More with Eric Rutin (part 1)

Eric Rutin from Hallmark Mysteries and More joins Brook and Sarah to share his expertise on favorite Hallmark mysteries adapted from books. First of a two-part conversation.


The Gourmet Detective (1994) Peter King

The Gourmet Detective (2015) Hallmark

Mystery 101 (2019-2021) Hallmark

Flower Shop Mysteries (2016) Hallmark

Darrow and Daroow (2017-2019) Hallmark

Murder She Baked/Hannah Swensen Mysteries (2015-2023) Hallmark

Hannah Swensen mystery series (2001-2023) Joanna Fluke

The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries (2015-2023) Hallmark

Aurora Teagarden mystery series 1990-2017) Charlaine Harris

Curious Caterer Mysteries (2022-2023) Hallmark

Culinary mysteries (1990-2013) Dianne Mott Davidson

Dying for Chocolate (2022) Hallmark

Gilded Newport Mysteries (2024) Hallmark

Murder at the Breakers (2014) Alyssa Maxwell

About Eric Rutin and Hallmark Mysteries and More

Website: https://hallmarkmysteriesandmore.com/
Instagram: @hallmarkmysteriesandmore

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This transcript is generated by a computer and there may be some mis-spellings and strange punctuation. We try to catch these before posting, but some things slip through.

SarahWelcome to Clued in Mystery. I’m Sarah.
BrookAnd I’m Brook and we both love mystery.
SarahHi, Brook.
BrookHi, Sarah. Today we’re going to talk about mystery shows once again, specifically those made by Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, which is now Hallmark Mystery.
BrookThis American cable and satellite channel is a spinoff from the main Hallmark Channel network. It was launched in 2004 and it’s estimated that the channel is now available to more than 55,000,000 households. It airs family-oriented, feature length and episodic mystery shows, some reruns, some originals. Eric Rootin is an expert on Hallmark Mysteries. So, we thought it would be fun to talk with him about this tv network dedicated especially to the mystery genre. Sarah, would you like to introduce Eric to our listeners?
SarahAbsolutely. Eric has been clinically diagnosed as a Hallmark Mysteries addict. The only cure is for him to co-host Hallmark Mysteries and More to save his family and friends from his constant chatter about the latest movie or his favorite mystery, The Gourmet Detective. As with many Hallmark Mystery addicts, he got his start with Mystery 101, and it quickly grew until his dvr was filled with recordings of all the mystery marathons and spilled over into a subscription to Hallmark Now so he could watch all the old series like Flower Shop Mysteries and Darrow and Darrow. As an influencer in the Hallmark community, Eric brings a behind-the-scenes knowledge of Hallmark news as well as expertise in the classic Hallmark Mysteries. Welcome, Eric.
Eric RutinWell hello. Wow. That’s like the best introduction I’ve ever gotten.
BrookThanks for being here. We’re so excited.
Eric RutinI’m very excited that you invited me.
BrookWell, before we get into the technical interview about the channel and about all that you do, I know that you prepared a special treat for us that’s tradition on your show, Eric.
Eric RutinIt is. So one of the things when we launched we are Hallmark Mysteries and More and so we try to figure out what that “more” is. And it’s kind of the lifestyle. And my co-host Sydney who was with me in Season 1, she very much liked making cocktails. And so what happened is we started making cocktails dedicated to whatever mystery we were talking about.
Eric RutinSo for you guys today I decided to create one that is called The Red Herring because it’s sort of all inclusive of the whole genre and with this you’re going to take two ounces of Jamison whiskey. An ounce of crème de menthe, an ounce of crème de cocoa, and two ounces of heavy cream. You’re going to throw them all on the blender. Get them all mixed up. And then while you’re doing that you’re going to take a glass, melt some chocolate dip the martini glass, dip it in there then some little mini chocolate chips. Dip that there so you get a nice cool chocolate rimmed. Then pour your little concoction in there have a drink while you read your favorite mystery novel, which is hopefully one of the ones we’re going to talk about today that have been turned into a Hallmark movie.
SarahSounds wonderful. Yeah, it sounds great.
BrookI love it. It sounds so great and we do have a beautiful graphic that you’ve made so we’ll share that on our website. So, thank you.
Eric RutinNo problem.
BrookAll right? So, tell us, Eric about how you and Sydney started your podcast and what it is all about.
Eric RutinSo as you said before, I just became well going back like a lot of Hallmark people. Probably I first got into the rom-coms and was all into those and then just happenchance stumbled upon ah the mysteries. And I’ve always enjoyed mysteries, so I started watching them and then I got hooked and I really really enjoyed them. So I started looking for it and then discovered, you know hey there’s the whole channel that’s dedicated to these and started spending more and more time over on the mystery channel. Because I was like talking about it and as you said a little earlier that I just would talk to my family about it who had no interest. My daughter has a little, but she’s since moved out of the house. My wife has very little, so I started going through the whole Instagram community and developing some online friends who we would talk about mysteries there and then I said you know what? no one has a podcast that’s really dedicated just to the mysteries. Why don’t I do that? And so then I reached out to some of the people I’d been talking about and so that’s where. I got in touch with Sydney. Just quick question, did you guys know each other? Because you have a great distance between you two, right? Did you know each other before you started podcasting?
SarahWe connected through Instagram.
Eric RutinYou know a mutual love for the medium. Ho that’s where Sidney and I came together and we started podcasting just talking about our favorite hallmark mysteries. And before you know it, because there was such a void in the space we started also connecting with the actual Hallmark people and started getting actors like Brennan Elliott and Benjamin Ayres you know coming on our show. And he was like wow and then started getting some of the main writers and directors and one of our big things we did last year was, as any Hallmark Mystery fan knows, one of the big things out there was Mystery 101 being canceled on a cliffhanger. And Mystery 101 has the most fanatical loyal fans of any mystery and then it ending on a cliffhanger was just you know blew up the whole ah Hallmark sleuther universe. And what they accidentally happened was Hallmark on a just random post about Mystery 101 accidentally revealed that the show was canceled because it was sort of in this limbo where no one knew is it not going to be another one?
Eric RutinSo some social media manager by accident just completely let the cat out the bag that it was officially canceled and then all chaos broke out. And so what happened in that time is we had talked to John Christian Plummer, the author of the Mystery 101 series. And he’d been really nice to us and I said, “Hey would you come on and tell us what would have happened if there was the other episode?” and lo and behold, he said yes, which kind of blew my mind. And I was surprised at bigger media out there didn’t do this because this was a really big and you know Hallmark has this universe. But then every now and then there are certain stories that get bigger than just Hallmark, and this is one of those. And he said, “Sure, but I actually have to go through Hallmark.” Which we had never had to go through and get corporate approval before and it turned into a whole like little negotiation-e type thing and what can we do? What can’t we do? Fortunately, Hallmark is as an organization surprisingly transparent, surprisingly supportive of little channels like us and like okay go for it. You can do what you want to do. I’m sure he had a little coaching behind the scenes on what he could and couldn’t say. But lo and behold he came on and shared what would have been Episode 8, and we were the only place that ever aired it. So that was absolutely fantastic. So that was our big like putting us over the ah tipping thing of being this little tiny niche. Where then we started getting a bigger audience and still this still to this day we have all sorts of people who still listen to that particular episode dm us and complain because a lot of people get confused and think we’re actually the network.
Eric RutinAnd everything is kind of crazy some of the things that happen in our DMs. So we grew and along those lines Sydney went and got pregnant and she unfortunately well fortunately for her unfortunately for me for Season 2 is like “You know what, I got to focus on being a mom.” She’s due pretty much any day now. And so Andrea, who I’ve been friends with for a while as well, she has stepped in and so she’s become my host co-host for Season 2. Ad it’s kind of funny because Andrea and I seem to agree on most things.
Eric RutinBut when we disagree, oh boy, we are so polar opposites. You’d think we were like kind of like be in the middle or whatever like oh I’m only in the middle but you liked it or vice versa. But no, it’s like polar opposite. So, this season has been a lot of fun. It’s our second season I know you guys have been doing this for a little while. So the other thing I’ve learned with podcasting is there’s a whole lot more work that goes into hosting a podcast than I thought. I thought I’d just get on ramble for you know few minutes and then boom upload it. But no, it’s a whole lot of work. So, your listeners should be so appreciative of not only the content you share, but the effort you guys put in to make the show happen on a consistent basis. So, there I’m giving you guys a little bit of love.
BrookThanks Eric
SarahThank you. So, I know, Eric you recently had Brook on your show to talk about mystery books that the two of you thought would make some great Hallmark tv series.
Eric RutinI did.
SarahNow, as someone who is an expert on network productions, can you tell us a little bit about some of the mystery book series that have already been adapted for Hallmark Mysteries?
Eric RutinI’d love to. There’s a few of them and most notably I’m going to just I just have a little list I’m going to start with, you you said in the beginning that The Gourmet Detective was my favorite Hallmark Mystery I honestly had no idea that there was a Gourmet Detective book series and about two weeks ago actually surprised me, after you guys had invited me to be on here, I found out that it was a book series by one of our followers on our our podcast.
Eric RutinThey sent a dm saying “hey have you read the books?” I’m like “what do you mean What books there’s no books .” And sure enough there are um they’re by Peter King. And one of the things about them which I think goes through a lot of the Hallmark Mysteries is when you read the book and then you compare it to the Hallmark Mystery some of them are completely, completely different and then some of them you can see just sort of took the bones from the mystery and then went on but also a lot of them. And you I know you guys have touched on this before in your podcast. They just have not aged well that what they wrote about. This is written I want to say is late like late 80s, early 90s. And he is so misogynistic when you read the book he like. Just the way he like every woman who comes in either their breasts or their but come into their description right? Or their lips. It’s just very interesting and then when you see the the series on Hallmark it is nothing like that. The Henry character in the series, played by Dylan Neal, he’s just wonderfully likable, perfectly contemporary and fits within the time but when you read the book. You’re just like this guy is a dog. And one of the lines that really stuck out that sums up the character I think is he’s talking to one of his cohorts and they said “oh, I didn’t think that woman was your um was was your your style” and his response was “oh all women are mine” right? So it’s just like that’s the kind of guy he was right and in 1989, 1990 guys, not right or wrong. But that’s kind of in ah in a mystery type thing. That’s how guys were. And I know you guys had recently just did your your cozy mystery um podcast where you guys talked about the Golden Age of the cozy mystery being I think it was the seventies, right? I think when you said it came back seventies eighties or somewhere around there right.
BrookYeah, kind of a resurgence. Yeah.
Eric RutinAnd you know from the original, you go back to the to to you know the Agatha Christies and all those ones, which once again, that’s the whole debate of where where that and the cozy is is probably a lively one but you look at these ones who a lot of these Hallmark ones are based off of is that sort of resurgence period. In 80s, 90s seem to be when they’re mostly at least started. And Gourmet Detective is one of those and so reading it, this is one where I only read the the first book but it does parallel the movie and you can see Dylan Neil not only stars in it but he also is the ah the writer with his wife. You can see where they did take the bones of the mystery and they follow the characters and there are certain things that they said, “okay, we like this or we can take a bunch of these and consolidate them all”. Because that’s one of the challenges is when you take a book, you can go so in-depth you can explain it for a whole chapter. But in a movie you got to knock it out really quickly. So, you you can see though in this particular series where they did take the bones of the mystery that were that were part of the book and turned it into the series.
Eric RutinAnd like I say it’s absolutely fantastic. For your readers, the mystery is fun and most of these cozies are fun. You just have to make sure you aren’t going to get offended by some of the things that take place because like I say they’re not 2024 they’re not 2020.
Eric RutinHeck, they’re not 2010, right? But there’re I mean 1989 if you lived back then you know that was just what life was. So you can’t really look at it through the current lens but that was a fantastic mystery.
Eric RutinAnother one is Hannah Swensen which that’s by Joanna Fluke. They’re still making those ones and it was Murder She Baked for a while and now they’re Hannah Swensen because of some this has to do with rights where the company that had the rights before for the Murder She Baked no longer is associated with Hallmark and so that’s why it’s Hannah Swensen. And they have brought in some different writers to do the actual screenwriting. Um, but these are ones too where it’s interesting. Some of them I want to say I think there’s like seven of them that have been made some of them are tie into the book. You can see okay that makes sense. I get where you’re going. Some of them just have the name in it and there’s literally nothing. Carrot Cake Murder was a recent one and the only thing that is anything close to the book is that there’s a carrot cake in it. Other than that the mystery is a hundred percent different the characters, they they pull in a couple of the characters but totally change their whole role for what they’re doing.
Eric RutinSo it’s really really different. One of the interesting things, and a lot of people are complaining about though is the Hannah character. A lot of people get upset because she’s in a love triangle and they’re just like “oh make her pick. She should be here. She should be this”.
Eric RutinBut when you read the books, and for for Hannah Swensen I’ve actually read several of those. I want to say I think there’s like 18 or 19. I have not read all 18 or 19 but I’ve read probably 8 of them and one of the things about it is Hannah Swensen really is that wishy-washy in her relationships. And so they actually are being reflective of the books. And yet people in um, the Hallmark universe get upset and they’re like no that shouldn’t be that shouldn’t why are they doing this. This is stupid I don’t like that. But it all that is is actually being true to the character of the books. So that’s kind of one of the interesting interesting things. There. So I have a quick question. Do either of you well know Brook you do watch Hallmark Mysteries. But ah, you guys. Would you say you’re your like Hallmark fans at all in in that or is this kind of like you’re like I don’t know what you’re talking about.
SarahNo, and and that’s actually one of the questions that I have for you because I haven’t watched any Hallmark Mysteries. Um, and so I don’t know where you would recommend that someone like me start.
Eric RutinOh easy easy. I’m gonna go through two quick ones and then we’ll get back. There’s Aurora Teagarden that one has had like 18 Hallmark Movies as well and then um, there’s a a zollion books as well and one of the interesting things here is with the book Aurora, Charlene Harris has um written those. Have either of you read her by chance?
BrookYeah I did, Eric, after um after I was on your show because we talked ah a lot about that series and um and we talked about it’s a little bit like what you were saying with a Gourmet Detective pretty antiquated stories.
Eric RutinOkay.
Eric RutinBut but undertones of racism too, I think. Did you find that?
BrookYeah, right.
Eric RutinYeah yeah. So that’s once again, the interesting thing about this book is it’s just when you you read the book I kind of I had to stop reading it because I just was not comfortable with the the writing style and yes I like once again, you have to look at it through that lens then. But once again, there’s this undertones of some racism are just a little bit too much for me but Aurora Teagarden has been a really popular series and this is one that does follow. Once again, not probably the racist aspects but they do follow these the book fairly close and once again following the bones.
Eric RutinAnd then the last one I’m gonna talk about is Curious Caterer and this is by Dianne Mott Davidson and this is interesting because this is one that’s a fairly new mystery that they’ve they’ve started. Has big big cast with Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker, two of the biggest Hallmark stars. And in this one they kind of sort of almost like pick a scene from the book. But that’s about it. But then they also really have done some major character changes because if you read the book, you would be like how is this turning into a Hallmark Mystery? Because in the book, Goldy is the main character and her ex-husband is abusive, not just emotionally but physically he actually assaults her. I think he like broke her finger in a way that so her finger can never straighten. In one of the um in in one of the books Dying for Chocolate. He’s actually going like crashing through a window and trying to pull her through the kitchen window where she’s cutting her arm ending up in the hospital. And her son in the in the movies she has a daughter but in the in the book, she has a son who is basically telling her like “oh you know you don’t really love me. You’d be back together with dad.” He’s like supporting his dad despite the the abuse and things like that and so you just wonder like how did this end up in a Hallmark Mystery but you see that what they do is they just took some bones they said oh she’s a. You know she’s a caterer. We think that’s wonderful and you can turn it into that Hallmark story and they transfer it through. But if you read the book. The book’s I want to say kind of dark and it was interesting because when I listened to your podcast the other day about the cozy mysteries I was just thinking about this because I was like trying to figure out. You know you had your rules. That a cozy has to follow. And I guess it kind of does but I don’t know there’s some ones on this one that may make definitely go into that gray area of what the definition of a cozy is and is it is it one or isn’t it.
Eric RutinAnd I know I said that’s the last one I will say they just recently did also a Gilded Newport Mystery which was taken from the book and in that one we’ll see if there’s going to be more that goes back to 1895 Alyssa Maxwell is the author and they did keep sort of pretty true to the story. But they had to consolidate things so we’ll see how that one that one goes but it was fun going back in time to 1895 for that. So that in a nutshell is a couple of the big ones I know that’s probably a way longer answer than you wanted. But that’s sort of ah in a nutshell if you want to read a cozy book.
Eric RutinAnd see you know some movies that have a few of them so you can you can do? That’s probably a really good you know group of them that that have both book and mystery or movie.
BrookI have to brag a little bit I have met Dianne Mott Davidson at a conference a long time ago. So that inspired me to to read several of those books. But it was I was reading those? um oh goodness.
BrookIt was probably in the early two thousand s and so they didn’t. I think that your point is um is right Eric some of those like 80s, 90s quote unquote cozies are still a lot more. Um.
BrookI don’t know traditional mystery or maybe with a little noir considering you know some of them the masculine ah attitudes I think that we’ve developed them over the years to get more and more and more are cozy or cutesy as we’re hearing now. But yeah, you could definitely see a lot of those darker themes in the 80s and 90s.
Eric RutinI did like that I never heard it before the cutesy mystery until I listen to your podcast and I do think Hallmark Movies definitely fall in that cutesy category whereas the book probably does not for several of these.
BrookYeah, we hadn’t heard that term either that was a new end to us. But I think it’s helpful because it is such a spectrum of different kinds of stories.
SarahBrook and I had such a great conversation with Eric, but we’re going to pause the conversation here. Come back next week and we will hear where he thinks people who are new to Hallmark Mysteries start.
BrookThanks everybody. We’ll see you next week for the continuation. Until then, I’m Brook.
SarahAnd I’m Sarah. And we both love mystery.