Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery, fun main characters
Cons: One small niggle with the plot; cheese
The Bottom Line:
Draws Emma to a murder
Fun, light mystery
“I’m an Archaeologist. It’s My Job to Dig Up Secrets.”
At first thought, I wouldn’t say that archeology would be a hot topic for murder, but Emma Fielding is proving me wrong. While I haven’t read the books in the series, Past Malice is the second movie starring this archeologist.
Emma (Courtney Thorne-Smith) is being forced to take a vacation. While she is disappointed since it means she can’t work on her latest discovery, her attitude changes when her friend Adelle (Sitara Hweitt) invites her to a dig. Professor Thomas Webster has been working around an ancient house and has made some huge discoveries. However, his biggest find is missing.
Naturally, Emma can’t resist a mystery like that, so she shows up at the castle only to find that things are even more complicated than she expected. There is a local legend about a witch who, centuries ago, placed a curse on the family that owns the castle. Her first meeting with Professor Webster doesn’t go well. To say he is a jerk is putting it mildly, but then he starts talking about secrets he knows that ensure the family will keep him on. Promising to tell Emma more later, he stalks off.
Only when Emma goes to meet him, Webster isn’t around. Then she spies his body in a walled off room. How did he get in there? Who killed him?
You always know you are in for a good mystery when a victim isn’t well liked since it gives you plenty of suspects and motives. That was the case here. However, as the story progressed, I was surprised by what Emma uncovered on her way to the logical solution. There was one aspect of the plot I thought could have been handled better, but it was minor overall.
We don’t have very many characters who return from the first movie here. Obviously, there’s Emma. Two of her grad students show up as well. The biggest returning character is FBI agent Jim Connor (James Tupper), who comes in to help Emma figure things out. They are a fun pair, and their chemistry is wonderful. The rest of the movie is filled with suspects, who kept me guessing.
Of course, I do need to issue my standard Hallmark cheese warning. This isn’t as bad as some of their movies are, but it does have its moments, both in the acting and the writing. But if you know to expect that going in, you’ll be fine.
Almost as soon as we saw the castle where the majority of the action takes place, I recognized it. It has always been used as the Luthor mansion in Smallville and as the Queen mansion in the early seasons of Arrow. Just a fun bit of trivia.
Past Malice is a fun diversion. The puzzle is compelling and the two main characters are great to spend time around. If you are looking for a light mystery, this movie will certainly fit the bill.