Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: A Very Foul Play (2019)

Police detective Lynn is only a supporting character in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, but she gets the defining line of the series when she exclaims, “Stop, this is excruciating!” as lead Aurora and friends try to pick apart the latest murder case. Fed up with this amateur hour crime solving, she interrupts the group and redirects their attention back to the victim, who is one of the stars of this very foul play. Strictly speaking, this twelfth Aurora Teagarden movie is not painful viewing, but I am near maxed out with this three-film premiere event.

The setting is a true crime and mystery conference, hosted by Linda (Kristen Robek), owner of a murder mystery theater. One conference highlight is a whodunit performed in part by speakers and panelists, a fun affair until someone is murdered onstage. Monica, the star, is stabbed to death during a brief blackout, and when the lights come on again, Aurora’s cousin Philip (Dylan Sloane) is holding the bloodied murder. He’s arrested on the spot, but while it’s clear to friends and family that he’s not the killer, it’s not clear who did do it.

I got a kick out of seeing the series’s most reluctant sleuths join Aurora’s Real Murders Club. Her mom, Aida (Marilu Henner), thinks she’s tagging along for a librarians’ conference and has little choice but to involve herself when her nephew gets in trouble. Aurora’s colleague, Lillian (Ellie Harvie), also can’t believe her bad luck when she arrives at the hotel to meet her online date, only to worry that he might be a suspect when he lies to the police. My favorite Aurora antagonist though is Lynn (Miranda Frigon), who is married to Arthur (Peter Benson), another police officer and, as it turns out, an RMC enthusiast. She is less than thrilled to be lending her professional skills to this little club, which she feels is an affront to her job as an actual detective. It’s taken me awhile, but I’m realizing how much pleasure I get from Frigon’s condescension and contempt.

All these forces combined don’t help the case come to a speedier conclusion though. The team find themselves chasing all sorts of leads, some of which further endanger Philip. They immediately suspect Brett, the deceased’s boyfriend, but then uncover information about his father, an unpopular real estate developer, that might point to another motive. Things get even messier when Ro catches someone sneaking back onto the crime scene and when she finds hidden connections between suspects and the victim.

A Very Foul Play looks to be the last Aurora Teagarden Mystery for awhile, at least until the new year. As much as I complain, I do like the new direction though. This is a cornball series held together by Cameron Bure but made enjoyable by its supporting cast. Lexa Doig and Frigon are notable for playing up their anti-Aurora characteristics. Sloane is also growing on me, the likable kid cousin figure who’s always willing to lend a hand. Niall Matter, on the other hand, hasn’t distinguished himself as Aurora’s new boyfriend. He’s an improvement over Mr. Murdoch Mysteries, who was a stronger presence but also a more patronizing one. Aurora has really dispensed with the damsel-in-distress act and is now calling the shots when it comes to her hairy, life-threatening showdowns. I won’t be disappointed to see the next batch of movies, but I’m not counting down the days until we get a new one either.

Highlight for spoilers: When it comes to Hallmark mysteries, you’re almost never wrong if you choose the most benign, unassuming guest character as your prime suspect, which in this case is Linda. Upset at everyone for getting in the way of her dreams, she decides she’ll burn them all, or at least stab, bludgeon, and frame whomever she can. She kills Monica when she learns that she was spying for Boyd, the man who was trying to ruin her theater. Of course Boyd had to go as well because obvs. No small part of the plan though was to destroy Robert, the ex who dumped her the minute he tasted success. She tries to set him up for the fall by planting a manuscript detailing the crime, but Ro foils the plan with her trusty librarian research skills and grammar software.

Released: 2019
Dir: Martin Wood
Writer: Teena Booth, Michael Vickerman
Cast: Candace Cameron Bure, Niall Matter, Marilu Henner, Peter Benson, Lexa Doig, Miranda Frigon, Dylan Sloane, Ellie Harvie, Boyd Douglas, John Emmet Tracy, Matthew James Dowden, Kristen Robek
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019

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