True Crime A To Z: B

Welcome to Best Evidence’s crime-alphabet project! Not sure what the hell we’re doing here? Check it out.

Now eat a B (hee) in the comments…and tell a friend/encyclopedia-minded enemy!


Margaret Howie: Bear Brook. At the top of the post-Serial mountain of true crime podcasts, Bear Brook managed to avoid practically every accusation that could be levelled against the format: it centres the victims, is painstaking with the procedural and forensic detail, and doesn't set up cheap cliffhangers or red herrings. It's quite a feat to be both tasteful and enthralling as hell while handling a story that's baffling, tragic, and also hits HH Holmes levels of grossness (it's too easy to imagine a schlocky version of this called “The Bodies in the Barrels”). Bear Brook got told just as the combined force of human pressure and online innovation started cracking open unsolved cases, and it's a perfect testament to a turning point in criminal forensics. (Honorable mention: Bandit Queen (1994). Phoolan Devi was famously unhappy with the movie version of her life story, which was told in a realist departure from most mainstream Indian films of the time, but while telling the story of rape, oppression, and rebellion that made Devi legendary, this never veers into exploitation. Instead it takes on a subject usually ignored outside of true crime, the relationship between female anger and structural injustice, while making for gripping viewing.) 

Kevin Smokler: Baran, Madeline -- host of the In The Dark podcast. 

SDB: I woke up this morning with Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” stuck in my head…except with “Best Evidence” as the chorus. So…that!

“Don’t know what to read? / Subscribe to BEEEEEST EVIDENCE! Best Evidence is what you need!” Catchy, right??

…Okay, not really. And when you share a last name with one of Oz’s most notorious murderers, it’s tempting to go with your shittiest cousin* and call it a day. But even I am not that tacky, so my B entry is Joe Berlinger. Despite the fact that, as I literally learned three seconds ago, he directed the shiteous Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, he also is behind the Paradise Lost trilogy; Brother’s Keeper; Cold-Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders; and Wrong Man, among others (that Metallica doc is great as well). Not everything Berlinger does is a success, but he tries things, at least; the scripted Bundy thing was a disappointment, but Conversations With A Killer was actually pretty compelling, and that he tried to do the story both ways showed me something, even if it didn’t work out, quite.

*John Bunting and I are not related, as far as I’ve been able to discern

Susan Howard: Betty Broderick — An epic marital breakdown, one of the messiest divorces in history, and a double murder. This story really does have everything and will soon get its turn at prestige cable treatment via the second installment in the Dirty John series. (Honorable mentions: Bad Blood, the Bath School massacre, BTK, Lizzie Borden.)