Best Of 2022: Favorite true-crime podcasts
Cons, elections, Holmes -- and one clear favorite
We asked an esteemed panel of colleagues and contributors for the best (and most disappointing) true-crime properties of 2022; the true crime they look forward to in 2023; vintage gems and underrated treasures they discovered; and their big-picture takes on the genre.
Yesterday, we talked about their year in books. Today, they weigh in on the best true-crime podcasts of 2022.
Susan Howard, B.E. contributor: “Bone Valley. A deeply humane investigation into the 1987 murder of Michelle Schofield in Florida, a wrongful conviction, and the herculean effort to unearth the truth. Great host (Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gilbert King) and researcher (Kelsey Decker), insanely good writing, and many surprises.”
Sarah Carradine, co-host of Crime Seen: “Bone Valley.”
Sarah Weinman, author of Scoundrel and New York Times crime-fiction columnist: “Far and away it's Bone Valley from Lava for Good, hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winner Gilbert King (with heaps of assistance from Kelsey Decker.) Gil's a friend who blurbed both of my books (one unprompted!) so I should disclose that up front, and I'd known this podcast was in the works for years. But it surpassed all expectations as a wrongful conviction narrative with infuriating results that really puts the lie to the state knowing best.”
Toby Ball, host of Strange Arrivals and co-host of Crime Writers On…: “I think a lot of people are going to say Bone Valley and that's the right answer. But there were a lot of other great podcasts and I'll single out Connie Walker's Stolen: Surviving St. Michael's, which would be a top two or three podcast in any year.”
David Bushman, author of Murder At Teal’s Pond: “Given my infatuation with Amanda Seyfried, this was the year I became obsessed with Elizabeth Holmes, though it seems like most of the relevant podcasts started in 2021 and continued into 2022 because of the trial. I thought Bad Blood was the best of the Holmes podcasts.”
Margaret Howie, the co-founder of Space Fruit Press and editor of the Three Weeks newsletter: “Sympathy Pains had me on the edge of my tiny phone speaker. Swindled season six has been incredibly strong. The NZ podcast The Commune took on a very tough subject and a theme that’s been covered to the end of iTunes and back (sexual abuse, cults), and did a good job.”
Andy Dehnart, reality TV critic and the editor of reality blurred: “I may have loved more true-crime podcasts than TV shows! Here are seasons that are part of the same podcast. Chameleon: Wild Boys was outstanding, and Sam Mullins really excelled in telling the story behind the headline about the ‘bush boys’ who emerged from the woods in Canada in the early 2000s. Likewise, Chameleon: Scam Likely (reported by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee) looked at both the call scam industry and its victims in a way that gave me a clearer understanding of how this particular scam works, but also why people participate in it and fall for it.”
Elizabeth Held, author of What To Read If: “Nothing ended up beating The Trojan Horse Project for me this year. The podcast, from Serial Productions and the New York Times, documents the fallout of a 2014 letter that falsely claimed Muslims were conspiring to take over the British school system. The letter ended the careers of multiple dedicated educators as well student-support programs. And, as the show’s hosts document, government leaders refused to acknowledge it was hoax, long after that became clear.
The Trojan Horse Project has the feel of Serial’s iconic first series and adds a global twist.”
My stand-outs this year were both democracy-on-the-brink pods: Will Be Wild, and AJC Breakdown’s season on the special grand-jury investigation of Trump.
What’d YOU like? What’d we miss?
And should we start a rumble with the Times over the fact that nothing mentioned here made their best-of podcast list? — SDB
If you’re not too busy stocking your playlists for those holiday flights, we’ve got a few more headlines worth your time today…
Sam Bankman-Fried got pinched in the Bahamas yesterday [New York Times] // The charges included “wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and money laundering, said a person with knowledge of the matter.” If we haven’t yet asked you to apply your knowledge of film and TV actors to cast Bankman-Fried in the inevitable docudrama on the FTX contretemps — I think we did? and I think y’all said “Chalamet”? — you’re invited to do so now…
Hae Min Lee’s family is asking for yet another hearing on Adnan Syed’s overturned conviction [Baltimore Sun] // My response to these efforts on the part of Lee’s relatives is and has always been a mixture of impatience (it’s…not Adnan; leave the man be) and compassion (it’s…unknown, legally speaking, who killed Lee, and one tiny measure of solace/control the family had in the situation is now gone). Syed’s attorney, Erica Suter, said basically that, then added that the Lees’ attention might be better directed at the misconduct on the part of prosecutor Kevin Urick.
On the anniversary of Sandy Hook, an oral history of sorts [Washington Post] // “Each has been shaped by what they saw and heard and lost: the 52-year-old from California who has spent more than half his life pleading with parole boards not to release the woman who shot him when he was in fourth grade; the 40-year-old from South Carolina who waited three decades to talk about the day her first-grade teacher was wounded in front of her; the 19-year-old from Connecticut who doesn’t always know what to say when strangers ask if she saw the dead bodies at Sandy Hook; the 10-year-old from Texas who hid a under a table earlier this year as his best friends at Robb Elementary were killed in front of him.” Said 52-year-old survived the attack by Brenda Spencer that was the topic of September’s bonus review, I Don’t Like Mondays.
Tokyo Vice author’s upcoming podcast [Kyodo News] // Journo Jake Adelstein is teaming up with reporter/producer Shoko Plambeck for Evaporated: Gone With The Gods, “a nine-episode journey into an intriguing topic sometimes regarded as taboo in Japan, but that hits close to home for both hosts.” Adelstein’s investigative motive isn’t entirely curiosity — apparently his accountant up and vanished with all Adelstein’s receipts a few years back — but evidently there’s no shortage of material: “According to data from the National Police Agency, over 79,000 people last year went missing in Japan. The lack of a photo-based identification system and strict privacy laws are believed to be the reasons why it is so easy to vanish, or even steal someone else's identity.”
And finally, the White House Plumbers trailer that had me and Eve developing crushes on G. Gordon Liddy. — SDB
Tomorrow on Best Evidence: The panel tackles the year’s most engrossing longreads. (If you’d like to tackle your gift list,
it helps us pay for things like HBO Max, Texas Monthly, and other top true-crime sources. Thanks for considering it!)
What is this thing? This should help. Follow Best Evidence @bestevidencefyi on Twitter and Instagram. You can also call or text us any time at 919-75-CRIME.
I didn't think it quite stuck the landing, but "The Trojan Horse Affair" really did start off with first season Serial vibes. The second episode reveal was amazing, and more than enough to give it a top spot for me (though I haven't listened to Bone Valley! In the queue for the Winter break).
Have to give a shoutout to Your Own Backyard, without which we would not have a first degree murder conviction of Paul Flores!!