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by April Summers 12 January 2020
True Crime ranks as one of the most highly consumed genres of podcasts. From the creators of This American Life, came the sensational viral story of Adnan Sayeed in Serial. Following this came the acclaimed S-Town series, as well as hungrily consumed favourites Dirty John and My Favourite Murder.
If the last five years is anything to go by, it seems the preferred form of storytelling now lies in podcasting. According to recent figures, there are currently over 800,000 podcast shows and, as of December 2019, more than 30 million episodes available for download in over 100 languages. True Crime podcasters are the new celebrities of journalism, with millions of followers eagerly awaiting their next move. Naturally, the Totalcrime team favours this genre above all others, and as keen podcast enthusiasts, this list ranges from internationally recognised stories to lesser known small town journalism. Here, in reverse order, are Totalcrime’s Top 10 True Crime Podcasts not to be missed.
As far as podcasts go, Gangster Capitalism is a straightforward and easily digestible introduction to the world of true crime podcasting. Season 1 focuses solely on one high profile case: the 2019 college admissions scandal. The story received global attention after actors William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were revealed to be key players in the scam and in this podcast series, documentarian Andrew Jenks delves deeper. In each episode of a relatively short season Jenks gets to work dissecting the inner workings of the scandal, addressing the bigger picture questions that have been brought to light, regards to the higher education system in the US and the role of celebrities in modern society.
Hosted by none other than Lisa Simpson(!) – or, Emmy Award® winning actress, producer, novelist and playwright, Yeardley Smith – Small Town Dicks follows the criminal activities taking place in little-known towns in the USA. Accompanied by veteran detectives Dave and Dan, who provide first-hand knowledge of big-time crime in small towns, Yeardley presents a different story in each episode. Over the course of an hour, Yeardley speaks with local small town police from all over America, delving into the wretched and occasionally abhorrent acts which have taken place in their precinct. Dave and Dan are on hand to provide their professional opinion and dissect the case. A fantastic podcast shining light on events less likely to traditionally receive media attention.
The Teacher’s Pet
This podcast program centres around the shocking unsolved disappearance of Lynette Dawson; a housewife who was reported missing from the affluent family home by her husband Chris, in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. The details of this twisted domestic nightmare unfold at a steady pace, tracing back to that fateful day in January 1982. Ever so gradually the real motivation of one man’s desperate greed and perversion is unveiled to listeners. Presented by investigative journalist Hedley Thomas, who first became involved in the story in 2001, this true crime podcast is expertly paced; each episode teases listeners with another tantalising detail of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Lynette’s disappearance.
This is a real meat and potatoes serial killer podcast to get your teeth stuck into. Almost 40 years after the heinous “Atlanta Murders”, this 6 part series sees journalist Payne Lindsay questioning whether the right person was convicted. Over the course of 10 episodes, Atlanta Monster digs into the details of the murders of 29 African American children and young adults between 1979 and 1981, accurately encapsulating the era with impeccable sound design and access to high profile individuals involved with the case. Lovingly layered to keep listeners guessing and in total suspense, every episode ends by leaving you wanting to know more.
The New Zealand Herald’s true crime podcast sees journalists reinvestigating the well known local cold case of missing Amber-Lee Cruickshank, 25 years on. Last seen on October 17th 1992, Amber-Lee’s disappearance shook the local community of Kingston, Lake Wakatipu. The Herald gained amazing access, extensively interviewing her mother, Nicola Cruickshank, and documenting Nicola’s tireless quest to find her daughter. This in-depth investigative series deliberates the suspects and theories still surrounding the case, as well as probing the local criminal underbelly.
This superb, long-standing podcast series is somewhat of an institution, with a back catalogue spanning more GB’s than your Apple-based device is likely to manage. Produced by Irish comedian and professional internet sleuth, Gordon Rochford, and a host of different guests, who join him as he conducts a deep dive dissection into all sorts of subjects. While the nature of the Those Conspiracy Guys podcast is satirical to say the least, the subject of a great deal of the episodes is true crime. Gordon’s intricate researching efforts present famous news stories in a fascinating light, providing context as well as the conspiracies surrounding some of the biggest criminal cases in history. Totalcrime has been following the TCG team’s podcasting efforts since their inception in 2014, there are now well over 100 episodes available online with episode running times ranging from one hour to a whopping eight hours. With this in mind, Totalcrime recommends some of the earlier classics to get a feel for the TCG narrative style: The Boston Bombings Part I & II, Charles Manson & The Manson Family and Josef Fritzl, are good starting points.
Avid crime podcast fans will be familiar with the name Phoebe Judge; the soft, mellifluous and unassuming voice behind the genre-defining Criminal series. You’ll be hard pushed to find a more expansive catalogue of true crime stories online. Hideous examples of criminal injustice, jaw-dropping real life revelations and mysterious small town goings-on, no crime is too weird or wonderful for Criminal to cover. While Judge and team are responsible for a large percentage of the best true crime podcast episodes on the internet, more recent episodes have proven less enthralling. With more than 150 episodes to scroll through, Totalcrime recommends memorable episodes such as I’m About to Save Your Life, Money Tree, Eight Years and Melinda and Judy to get started.
Unbelievable at times, The Clearing is the story of one woman’s suspicion being realised. Having always harboured suspicions, April Balascio’s decision to finally call a detective in 2009 led to the arrest and eventual conviction of her father, Edward Wayne Edwards. The podcast series documents April’s life following that fateful phone call, as host Josh Dean accompanies her on a journey through her unorthodox childhood, unravelling the motivations behind Edwards’ strange behaviour and in the process, unearthing an archive of sinister acts. This true crime podcast taps into a common fear of never really knowing those closest to you and why gut instinct is more important than mistaken memories.
Uncover: Escaping NXIVM
CBC News’ debut true crime podcast endeavour, recorded live from their headquarters in Vancouver, Canada, preempted the scandalous court case which unfolded in NYC last summer. Uncover: Escaping NXIVM (pronounced Nexium), follows the so-called “humanitarian community” from their inception to their reckoning and eventual trial. The appeal of this particular podcast lies in journalist Josh Bloch’s ability to evoke empathy, creating the unsettling impression that This Could Happen to Anyone. Visceral and graphic at times, the Escaping NXIVM serves as a terrifying cautionary tale for followers of modern day self-help fads.
The Missing Cryptoqueen
It is without question that the number one position must be awarded to the mysterious story of Dr Ruja Ignatova, The Missing Cryptoqueen. This gripping series is a work of art, brought to you by BBC Sounds and their two most hard working journalists, Jamie Bartlett and Georgia Catt. No stone is left unturned during this investigation into the criminal activity of fraudulent cryptocurrency company, OneCoin. The Missing Cryptoqueen team travel from London to Africa by way of Romania and Germany, to unearth the ulterior motives behind the falsified business front which is persuading millions to join a “financial revolution.” Tantalising at every turn, The Missing Cryptoqueen is a perfect example of how podcasting is the most exciting journalism format available to the public.
Totalcrime is a crime website founded by Chris Summers, an experienced crime reporter looking to enter the world of true crime podcasting. Totalcrime is a compilation of databases created by and curated by Chris, from his own records. They remain his copyright.
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