It seems that we love true crime podcasts. I'm not sure whether the Serial craze started this frenzy or whether podcasters are just capitalizing on an area that people are fascinated with. Regardless, there is no shortage of true crime podcasts - even The Onion got in on the action with A Very Fatal Murder, a satirical true crime podcast (worth the listen, it provides some good levity to the genre.) After spending the last couple of weeks listening to these, I have a few to strongly recommend; however, important caveat: I would not recommend listening to them all concurrently. Binging on one might be okay, but spending a few weeks listening to a myriad of them back to back to back starts to get in your head and under your skin (side note: do not sneak up on me for a few weeks).
My initial categorization had this segment including "true crime, advice, and pure entertainment" - admittedly not the best grouping and more of a catchall category. But alas, I wasn't able to pare down the list of true crime enough to toss in the extras. So, this week is nothing but true crime. I will work in a miscellaneous post before the next segment starts! Without further ado, here are six true crime podcasts that you must add to your queue.
1. West Cork is an Audible Original podcast and the only one on this list that isn't free (if you're an Audible subscriber you can use a credit to get it, if not, you can get it free with a new subscription. I think it's worth it, but admittedly all others on this list are free.) West Cork, hosted by Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde, investigates a 1996 murder in West Cork, Ireland - a quiet and remote vacation town. The hosts spent three years investigating this crime, and some of the intrigue of this podcast comes from their front-row seat on investigations - they talk first hand with all relevant parties and have extensive access to the primary suspect, Ian Bailey. It is textbook true crime, but the story is unique, the investigation is thorough, and the narrative is engaging. Each of the 13 episodes is about 30 minutes long, so perfect for a workout or commute or save them all and have a great road trip.
2. Death in Ice Valley is a BBC podcast that explores the mysterious death of a woman in Norway in 1971. A body was found on a mountainside in Norway, but was never identified. In a nearby train station, investigators found a couple of suitcases filled with money, clothing without labels, and eight passports, but they never identified the woman or answered the question of how she ended up dead on a mountain in Norway. Death in Ice Valley, hosted by Marit Higraff and Neil McCarthy, tries to pick up where this investigation fell short. There are
ten episodes, all around 30 minutes each. The hosts are engaging and the narrative is compelling, but I am hooked on this podcast because of the uniqueness of the facts: a woman not reported missing, traveling with a suitcase of cash, and clearly taking extreme measures to hide her identity. These are the facts of great fiction, but when they are present in non-fiction it's hard to resist.
3. Up and Vanished is hosted by Payne Lindsey and investigates the missing person case of Tara Grinstead, who was last seen on October 22, 2005 in Ocilla, Georgia. Payne is a masterful storyteller and a thorough interviewer and investigator. What really makes this a standout podcast, however, is the fact that Lindsey's focus on the case brought it renewed attention,
leading to two arrests in February of 2017. The podcast provides updates throughout the arrests and trials and tracks all developments in the case. I am three episodes in and will listen to all of season 1. Plus, season two is being released TODAY, August 20, 2018, so a new case is on the way.
4. In the Dark is an America Public Media podcast hosted by Madeleine Baran. In the Dark stands out from the pack of true crime podcasts because it looks less at the specific crimes involved in each case and more at the response of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Doing that forces listeners to think about the case a little more deeply and to contemplate more than just the basic facts surrounding a particular crime. The first season, which investigated the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling, was thrust into the spotlight as it was released at the same time that Wetterling's remains and killer were found. Season two, however, is where I started and am focused. In season two, Baran investigates the prosecution of Curtis Flowers for the murder of four people in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers has been tried SIX times for the same crime, yet twenty-one years after the crime, he is still asserting his innocence and fighting for his life. This one is challenging to listen to, but is powerful and raises some questions about the criminal justice system that we should be confronting. It's heavy, thought-provoking, unique, and engaging. Not the right one for a light listen, but definitely worth your time.
5. Criminal is "a podcast about crime." Produced by Radiotopia and hosted by Phoebe Judge, it attempts to be "a true crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological - that crime is a function of people, time, and place." First released in 2014, episodes are around 30 minutes and are released two Fridays a month. Each episode looks at a different crime through a unique lens. You can listen to these episodes in any order, but I started with Episode 1, "Animal Instincts," because it explores a murder in Durham that I had heard of. Next I plan to listen to "Money Tree," an episode about identity theft, and "Jolly Jane," an episode about a very jovial serial killer. Criminal is not just another true crime podcast. Judge and the Criminal team find stories that others didn't (even within stories that have been told many times) and produce thought-provoking episodes that we can all relate to, learn from, and be entertained by.
6. Accused is a podcast hosted by two journalists from the Cincinnati Enquirer. Season 1, released in August of 2016, investigated the murder of Elizabeth Andes in Oxford, Ohio in 1978. Hosts Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossmann are currently in Season 2, but it is the first season that really grabbed me and is where I'm starting. In trying to figure out why this podcast stands out, I think it's the simplicity of the question they are focused on, "was the right guy charged or did a killer walk free?" in combination with the complexity that they bring to the case (that investigators in 1978 seemingly did not find or understand). Like West Cork, Accused is textbook true crime, but it stands out among this group and is worth the listen.
The sheer volume of true crime is staggering. There are many great listens in this highly-concentrated genre, but you cannot go wrong with these six. I have certainly enjoyed exploring podcasts these last few weeks and look forward to posting a "bonus miscellaneous category" post even as I move on to fitness trends. Plenty to listen to researching those segments. Until then, happy listening!
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