Love a fascinating true crime tale, but don’t want to be kept up all night lingering over gory details? Check out Criminal, a pitchy crime-centric podcast that feels like the weird little love child of My Favorite Murder and Reply All.
Every week, reporter Phoebe Judge hosts, offering a short but always fascinating story of crime. Rather than salacious stories of murder and mayhem, Criminal sets out to tell quirkier tales that explore the curious corners of criminal investigation. Sometimes the stories are harrowing, like that of “The Fifth Suspect” (Episode 14), which focused on an innocent man wrongfully accused of a crime so horrible that even exoneration offered no justice. Some are romantic—in a macabre sense—like “The Big Sleep” (Episode 13), which reveals the defining love of crime novelist’s Raymond Chandler, while paralleling the ongoing love story of of his biggest fans. Some delve into misunderstood histories, like that of Carry A. Nation (Episode 73), who carried a hatchet to smash up bars in her quest to outlaw liquor, or “The Procedure” (Episode 71), which unspools the shocking truth of religious leaders who helped women obtain illegal abortions before Roe V Wade.
Like My Favorite Murder, Judge and her guests explore these stories with a sense of wonder and a bit of whimsy, but they never lose sight of the human costs of more terrible tales. Criminal’s not a laugh-out-loud cutup like MFM. But for true crime enthusiasts (A.K.A. Murderinos), it’s a must-listen for its strange stories and exhilarating insights. Narrated with a breathless enthusiasm by Judge, each episode feels like a taboo anecdote, whispered at a party bustling with people too caught up to catch on. And with most episodes clocking in under 30 minutes, the stories remind me of Reply All’s, scratching the surface of potential deep dives to give you enough to feel satisfied, but also a bit tempted to do some more digging on your own.
You can download every episode Criminal on iTunes. And while there’s no need to listen to them in order, I’d recommend getting started with Episode 1, “Animal Instincts,” so you can dive in with the incredible tale of the Owl Theory. From there, jump around as titles or teaser images inspire. But one tip: Most episodes of Criminal are fun and sprightly, the kind of thing you can listen to doing dishes, or running out for groceries. And their short runtimes make them pretty ideal for such chores. However do not listen to episode 71 “Bump In The Night” when you are home alone. And ESPECIALLY don’t listen to it while home alone in the shower.
Trust me on that one.