True crime podcasts are habit-forming: once you’ve listened to one, you’ll want another. With so many options to choose from across all podcasting services, it might prove something of a challenge to narrow down your next choice. These five examples of the genre combine sophisticated production techniques, professional reporting expertise and dramatic storytelling, all in the service of an addictive audio experience.
In “Accused,” Cincinnati Enquirer investigative reporter Amber Hunt (assisted by producer Amanda Rossmann) brings her journalistic skills to bear on a pair of unsolved murders. In season one, Hunt investigates the 1978 stabbing and strangling of Elizabeth Andes, who had just graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In season two, she looks into the 1987 murder of Retha Welch in Newport, Kentucky. In both of these gripping and thoughtfully structured seasons, Hunt’s dogged reporting raises new questions and uncovers leads that the original investigators either ignored or missed.
Hosted and produced by the creators of HBO’s “The Jinx,” “Crimetown” focuses on the intersection of crime and culture in American cities. With its pervasive legacy of corruption, Providence, Rhode Island, proves the ideal location for the podcast’s first season. In alternating episodes, “Crimetown” investigates and retells Providence City Hall’s misdeeds and mob crimes that have both made headlines and also slipped under the radar for decades. The first storyline focuses on the astonishing rise and fall of Mayor Buddy Cianci, who was forced to resign twice due to felony convictions. The second storyline traces the violent and colorful history of Providence’s mobsters.
“Criminal” episodes are conveniently snack-sized — about 15 to 20 minutes each — but they also offer plenty to chew on. While many episodes delve into the story of a specific crime or criminal, cases are usually connected to a larger historical, scientific or cultural context. That doesn’t mean the podcast is dry or scholarly. Yes, “Criminal” is deeply researched and informative, but in the hands of Phoebe Judge, it’s also a consistently entertaining and eye-opening listen, featuring stories that are bizarre, bloody and impossible to forget.
Reported and narrated by Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard, “Dirty John” tells a tangled tale of deception and violence. The title character, John Meehan, is a slick-talking abuser who repeatedly worms his way into the lives of women he meets online — including his latest target, a successful California business owner. As the story careens toward its darkly dramatic climax, Goffard’s addictive, fascinating podcast peels back layer upon layer of deception to expose the darkness underlying Meehan’s manipulative behavior.
“In the Dark”
Over the course of two seasons, American Public Media’s “In the Dark” podcast has gone far beyond the typical true-crime format, emerging as a critical voice for criminal justice accountability and reform. In season one, reporter Madeleine Baran investigates the unsolved 1989 disappearance of Jacob Wetterling and how it was botched by local law enforcement. Season two takes on the case of Curtis Flowers, who has been prosecuted half a dozen times for the same crime and remains on death row despite winning multiple appeals.
After listening to any one of these five podcasts, you’ll come away entertained and enlightened. Each show looks beyond the basic bloody details of the cases it investigates, providing context to help you better understand not just the crime, but the system that led to it, punished it or allowed it to go unsolved.
This article is presented by Jack Demmer Ford in Wayne, Michigan.