Cracking True Crime Podcasts

Latest obsession…..

True Crime Podcasts. I’m in my car for a couple of hours every day – usually stuck in traffic on the motorway -  so anything that makes the time pass a bit more quickly is a good thing. Lately, I’ve been listening to true crime podcasts. I’ve discovered, with podcasts, that the presenter makes ALL the difference. While you’re listening, you’re transported into their world, their thoughts - so how they convey them to the listener is crucial in keeping interest. I’ve listened to some corkers (and some duds). Here are my picks of the best…

I was a little late to the party on this one – Serial was first broadcast in 2014 and to date is the most downloaded podcast series of all time. In it, presenter Sarah Koenig examines the cases of Hae Min Lee, a high school student murdered in 1999. Her ex boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was charged with her murder and remains in prison today (there’s movement in this case at the moment, but I won’t spoil it for anyone yet to listen). Sarah talks to various people connected to the case, including Adnan himself.

While the case itself is certainly intriguing, I also found it frustrating – at one point Sarah makes a comment that Adnan doesn’t seem capable of murder, because he has ’giant brown eyes, like a cow’. This was obviously intended as a flippant comment, but I think it highlights the way Sarah treats Adnan throughout the podcast – she speaks to him many times, yet I don’t hear her asking him any truly uncomfortable questions, or pushing him on his constant ‘I don’t remember’ responses, when asked what happened during those January days in 1999. I think she treads very lightly with him – less so with others involved in the case, like Jay, a key witness for the prosecution. A bit biased? I think so, but absolutely worth listening to. There are dozens of websites, Reddit threads, newer podcasts and even books on the subject of this case, so there’s plenty more to dig into once you finish listening to Serial and feel like your life no longer has meaning (ok that’s probably just me).

Note, though  - if you listen to Season 2, don’t expect it to be anywhere near as interesting as the first. It’s a completely different subject – the story of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, a former Taliban prisoner. Personally, I found it so boring I turned off after 2 episodes.

David Ridgen presents this Canadian podcast series which delves into the case of missing 29 year old Sheryl Sheppard. Just days before she disappeared, on January 2nd, 1998, Sheryl’s boyfriend Michael Lavoie proposed to her live on TV during a New Year’s party – you can see the actual video of this on the podcast’s website. Her disappearance has never been explained, although there is plenty of suspicion. Michael is and has always been the main suspect for police investigating this case. David talks to Sheyl’s mother, various friends, family and people who knew both her and Michael at that time and have differing opinions on what happened. We learn a lot about Sheryl as a person, which, for me, made this podcast come to life just that bit more.  David has a kind, sympathetic manner and this also comes across – he’s very easy to listen to (and seems particularly enamoured with dogs, who he meets several of over the course of this podcast) as is one of the detectives on the case who sounds EXACTLY like George Clooney (really, he does – you need to listen!).

These are short, concise, individual podcasts detailing unsolved murders in the US presented by Heidi Galore, a crime analyst and former police officer. Heidi speaks calmly and slowly, which has the effect of making these podcasts easy to listen to, and chilling, all at once. We don’t learn a huge amount about these cases, but I really like Heidi’s presenting style – it’s her that drew me in. The first episode tells the story of Sister Cathy Cesnik (if you’ve watched Netflix’s The Keepers, you’ll know her story), then the following episodes cover different cases, including several unsolved murders which took place along the Colonial Parkway. There’s not a great deal of detail in these – as I said, they are short, concise podcasts – I suppose you could call them the sort of easy listening of true crime, if there can be such a thing!

Beth Andes was 23 years old when she was brutally murdered in her apartment in Ohio in December, 1978. Her boyfriend Bob was arrested and went to trial for her murder. He was acquitted. He was then acquitted a second time in a civil case brought by Beth’s family. There is so much about this case that is baffling, from what happened from the moment Beth’s body was discovered to the statements and behaviour of various people connected to the case. It’s a sad and intriguing story, presented by Amber Hunt of the Cincinnati Enquirer. I think this has been my favourite of all the true crime podcasts I’ve listened to so far. Amber has a chatty yet professional style which I think suits the subject perfectly. She asks all the questions I would have, had I been in her position. I don’t think I’m spoiling it for anyone yet to listen by saying Beth’s murder remains unresolved, however, given the commitment to the case Amber and producer Amanda Rossman have given – and continue to give, by all accounts – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is solved some time soon. Oh, and one extra thing  - chapter 6, just over ten minutes in: CREEPIEST THING EVER. I’m serious. I was tootling along a busy road in the sunshine, in my bright coral Fiat 500 when I listened to this, and it was so chilling I immediately locked the car doors. You have been warned!!

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