You’re home for Thanksgiving and your Uncle Wayne won’t shut up about why Sean Spicer was robbed on Dancing With the Stars. Instead of showing him exactly which orifice a turkey leg will fit up, maybe peace out and listen to some true crime podcasts about people who gave in to their baser natures, while feeling smug that you’re not giving into yours.
I personally favor the serial-style, one-case-per-season, heavy-on-the-journalism investigations into cold crimes, unsolved murders, justice miscarried, sex offenders, and habitual con artists. Won’t you join me?
My favorite American clearinghouse for dirty people and their dirty deeds.
Originally reported in the LA Times, Dirty John is about a pathological liar/serial con artist dude who made a life of separating women from their money and married a wealthy Orange County (CA) businesswoman with a way too open heart and a bad picker. Shows what can happen when you are hypnotized by the D. So crazy it was turned into a Bravo series.
Hosted by excellent investigative journalist Laura Beil and her lovely Mary Steenburgen-esque accent. About medical fraud Chris Duntsch, a Dallas spinal neurosurgeon who paralyzed and killed a bunch of people.
Two seasons of Florida-Man-style true crime, AKA the best style of true crime. Season 1 (Tally) is about the suspicious murder of a Tallahassee lawyer/dad in the wake of an acrimonious divorce. Season 2 (Joe Exotic) is about a threatening feud between a big player in the big cat sanctuary world and a scrappy and eccentric exotic zoo owner.
The folks at Wondery are definitely skeeved out by medical fraud, and so am I. This one covers an unethical therapist who used his position to manipulate patients into giving him all their money and control over their lives. Listen to this, but only if you promise it won’t turn you off the idea of therapy in general.
Another great one by Laura Beil, who apparently wants to remind us that doctors are not gods one podcast at a time. Evidently there was a tainted batch of stem cells that got a lot of people verrrry sick. Scary and also educational about the stem cell industry and what that science actually can and cannot do.
This one’s brand new, so the jury’s still out, but so far so good. About a dedicated Anaheim homicide cop on the trail of a serial killer. And apparently how hard it is to be a female cop. Or a female anything. By the same guy who did Dirty John.
It’s not just wallabies and tighter gun control in the land down under; they’ve got some jerks, too. And The Australian is the journal of record to report on them.
A very suspicious cold case of a woman who went missing but obviously is really dead, her manipulative husband who was having an affair with one of his high school students, and a possible child abuse ring. Currently unavailable in Australia (but available elsewhere) because the pod actually stirred up enough interest/information that there has been some progress in the case. Vive le fourth estate.
About the search for a young Belgian tourist kid who went missing in a fancy beach town. Did he get high and lost in the bush? Did he drown? Get abducted? Not sure where it’s going yet because it’s another pod-in-progress.
Dark stuff happens even in the Great White North, and not just above the Arctic Circle in the winter (heyo). When it does, the CBC is the place to shed light on it (zing).
Unlike most of the other podcasts here, this one isn’t about a murder, a con man, or a cold case. Really good reporting about journalists and police who found a major child predator (and his community of fellow pedophiles) on the dark web. Simultaneously infuriating, overwhelming, hopeful, terrifying and informative. If nothing else, you’ll learn to use the term, “child abuse materials” instead of “child porn.” Trigger warning: child sex abuse is discussed. Not in horrible graphic detail, but it’s certainly enough.
SKS has five seasons (!) so far investigating cold cases and justice gone wrong, often in rural and economically depressed Canada. I liked Seasons 2 (Sheryl Sheppard) and 5 (Kerrie Brown), both about young women who went missing. For an added bonus, you can play a drinking game around every time host David Ridgen talks about his interviewees’ pets. Spoiler alert: you’ll get wasted.
Another five season treasure trove from the CBC. Faves are Season 1 (Escaping NXIVM) about the MLM sex cult with the Smallville actress in it, which was recently in the news, and Season 3 (The Village) about a gay serial killer in Toronto and why it took so long for the police there to do anything about it, but they’re all good.
Last But Not Least
Not to be overlooked, here are a couple from standalone sources.
A terrific cold case podcast about a 20+-year-old murder in rural Ireland. I stayed up late listening to this and doing a puzzle and loved them both so much I nearly pulled an all-nighter. This one is on Audible, and it makes me wish they did more of them.
Have any favorites that we missed?
Heather Huntington is a Staff Contributor for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.
Image sources (in order of posting): Wondery, CBC, The Australian, Audible, Black Mountain Media