by Kathleen Costa
Hallmark has recently had a bit of a shake-up with several of its stars opting to sign contracts with a competing channel reportedly for varying reasons from money to creative differences to positions of power. This has Hallmark Movies & Mysteries looking in other directions to fulfill the need for more romance and holiday movies as well as cozy-style movies in their Signature Mysteries. The newest movie aired Sunday, January 8, highlighting DNA, genealogy, and mystery: Family History Mystery: Buried Past.
Family History Mystery: Buried Past is the newest addition to Hallmark’s Signature Mystery portfolio based on Family History Mystery novels by Brynn Bonner. Although there are key differences between Bonner’s books and the telemovie, as usual, names, some innate abilities, and client list, the premise of a genealogist is still the central character. Janel Parrish stars as genealogist Sophie McClaren who uses her expertise as well as ancestry sites, DNA databases, and online searches of social media to bring closure to her clients. She has a reputation for successfully finding missing loved ones, even when she has little to go on. Her assistant Esme (Kyana Teresa) is an integral member of the business and eager to have a case of her own, so she takes the lead on determining the ownership of a stack of love letters discovered under a client’s kitchen floor boards. It’s not just connecting people with missing family members or long lost loves, it’s also connecting precious memorabilia with their owner.
Sophie’s childhood friend, Jonathan Higgins (Morgan David Jones), unfortunately has discovered his cancer has returned and the best therapy is a bone marrow transplant. His family, including his twin brother Jackson (Niall Matter), is confidant one will be the perfect donor, but his mother Dorothy has an out-of-the-box idea. The brother’s biological father, Clark Edward Higgins, disappeared in a car-into-the-river accident decades ago, and because a body was never found, he was later declared dead. Their mother, however, believes her first husband may not be “dead” since, a few years after his disappearance, she received news from a friend that she’d seen him alive and well. The mother hires Sophie to locate him, but is secretive about telling her sons. She has never shared with them her thoughts that their father might still be alive. “It’s better to know the truth,” Jackson says, as he becomes an active participant in the search to find his father.
Earns 5/5 DNA Reports…Compelling & Clever! The movie was quite entertaining with a bit of suspense thrown in as Jonathan’s health is deteriorating, key friends and relatives are not eager to dredge up the past, and some surprise details are revealed. It was different from other Signature Mystery movies in that there was no murder at the center of the investigation, but it was still engaging and entertaining. The final reveal, of course in part, was expected since Hallmark is known for its happy endings, but it was still a satisfying conclusion. The cast did well with their characters. Niall Matter is a long time member of the Hallmark universe including having been the love interest in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, so he’s established himself well as a talent. I am disappointed in the choice of Janel Parrish as the female lead. She is more than adequate, and many may find her great for the series, but I felt her too perfect, too fashionable, and not totally convinced by her performance. I also worry that the characters or the setting is too contrived. I was pleased that the cast was eclectic and well-rounded from its multi-racial and multi-generational cast and Jonathan’s character being gay. I’m all for inclusion!
No news about a second movie, and despite my criticisms, I am all for it. Sophie has her own unsolved family mystery. She was adopted at a young age after being found on the steps of her adoptive father’s fire station. She does have an epiphany about her own biological family which just might be the story line of a future movie.
Other Gems for January!
Nikki & Nora: Sister Sleuths reruns Wednesday, January 18. “Fraternal twins Nikki and Nora are forced back into each other’s lives when they inherit a detective agency. As they solve a murder, they realize their differences may be their greatest advantage. Starring Hunter King and Rhiannon Fish.”
Francesca Quinn, PI reruns Tuesday, January 24. “Private investigator Francesca “Frankie” Quinn is hired to find her fiancé’s killer. She must work with her detective ex, Wyn, and trust the person who broke them up and ruined their lives. Starring Mallory Jansen and Dylan Bruce.”
Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate reruns on Sunday, January 29. “Colorado caterer Goldy Berry teams with detective Tom Schultz to identify the ingredients that led to the mysterious death of her friend — and ends up discovering a hidden recipe for murder. Starring Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker.”
Cut, Color, Murder reruns Wednesday, January 25. “When a beauty pageant creator is found dead, a savvy hairdresser works with a detective and risks everything to clear the names of those she loves. Starring Julie Gonzalo and Ryan McPartlin.”
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. A new episode just went up.