True Crime A To Z: S

Welcome to Best Evidence’s crime-alphabet project! Not sure what the hell we’re doing here? Start at the beginning! And don’t be afraid to call out stuff we missed...

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I think this is a first: a veritable barrage of worthy candidates, and not a single duplicate, even in the honorable mentions! Is this our deepest bench yet? Seatbelts, comma, put on your: it’s S.

SDB: Serial. The grandmama of true-crime podcast’s first season changed not just one game but several: the seriousness with which true crime was treated; audio storytelling in the 21st century; Reddit; I could go on. Subsequent seasons weren’t as successful, but when the bar’s that high… (Honorable mentions: Bridget Sullivan, the Bordens’ maid and probably the only person to survive that day who really knows what Lizzie did or did not do; Little Nicky Scarfo, who in addition to imploding the Philly mob also has the distinction of appearing in more Law & Order franchise episodes than anyone else (he’s in the credits); and the man, the myth, the sonorous legend: Mr. Robert Stack.)

Susan Howard: The Staircase. Genre-defining and sometimes infuriating chronicle of the murder trial of Michael Peterson for the death of his wife Kathleen in 2001. (Honorable mentions: Sam Sheppard; Pamela Smart; the Scarsdale Diet Murder; Sacco and Vanzetti.)

Margaret Howie: Shattered Glass (article, 1998; movie 2003). Before you say, “Fake news! Stephen Glass didn’t technically commit a crime!”, let me pin up the red string between print-outs of his falsified New Republic articles, a timeline of how digital media was beginning to transform the journalistic landscape, and a shot of Hayden Christensen’s only good cinematic contribution of looking like the very definition of privileged white male smarm in the film. Said movie works so well because it treats the Glass case as a thriller, and it would go on to haunt newsrooms across the world as they began to ask the question that, more than anything, would define both true crime and reporting for the next twenty years: who can we believe? (Honorable mention: Spotlight (2015), and the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe.

Kevin Smokler: Say Nothing. Patrick Radden Keefe's dissection of the 1972 kidnapping of Jean McConville, one of the more famous crimes of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, could have felt like 464 pages on repeat to anyone who has seen a movie directed by Jim Sheridan or spent time with U2's pre-“Joshua Tree” catalog. Instead, it feels completely new: a thrilling, effortless, yet heartbreaking work of political journalism and crime. Yes, all of those things together.

True Crime A To Z is available to all subscribers…and we’d love your feedback! Comment on our picks, and tell an interested friend!

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