11 of the best true-crime podcasts that will have you biting your nails in suspense – Laura Davis

What makes us so fascinated by crime? Is it the motives behind the action of the culprits, sympathy for the victims, or the sneaky suspicion that if it weren’t for the circumstances and sheer luck, we might find ourselves embroiled in the kind of stories we routinely spill ?

The best true crime podcasts contain all of these elements along with intriguing storylines that prove the truth is often stranger than fiction and the characters listeners are struggling to understand.

Some are dramatized versions of events, like the excellent American Hostage with Jon Hamm from Mad Men – the story of a man desperate to be heard who finds a radio reporter willing to listen. Some, like Stories of the Stalked, are audio documentaries, while others, like Fake Heiress, are a mix of the two.

But all of the shows listed below will have you biting your nails waiting for the next big reveal, and you might find you hold your loved ones a little closer after listening.

Unless otherwise stated, all featured series can be found on regular podcast apps.

Do you have a favorite podcast you’d like us to review? Let us know in the comments.

American hostage

At the same time, radio journalist Fred Heckman prepares for a birthday lunch with his wife, elsewhere in town, Tony Kiritis points a shotgun at his banker’s head.

During an erratic call to 911, Kiritis reveals that he has a “dead man’s line” attached to the gun. If he is incapacitated in any way, the gun will fire and his hostage will be killed. Then he calls Heckman to request a live radio interview.

Though more used to acting on screen, Jon Hamm (Mad Men) is brilliant as the Indianapolis reporter whose desire for a good story lands him in the middle of a 63-hour hostage situation. which is inspired by real life events. He and Joe Perrino as Kiritis have their work cut out for expressing extreme emotions in what is essentially a duet between two very different men.

Hamm’s performance is restrained as the old-fashioned radio man tries to take the unusual situation in his stride – but when he’s worried or scared, you feel it, too. Meanwhile, between Perrino’s deft treatment of his character and clever writing, you – like Americans in 1977 – begin to sympathize with the man holding the shotgun.

Where to start: The action moves quickly in the first episode, when Dick picks up a phone call that could save a man’s life.

False heiress

Fake Heiress Podcast

If the Netflix drama Inventing Anna has left you craving more insight into the fascinating and suspicious con man who inspired it, then Fake Heiress will at least partially quench your thirst. Part documentary, part drama, the BBC Sounds podcast was written by journalist Vicky Baker and playwright Chloe Moss – so, much like the story Anna invented, it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly which parts are real.

Russian-born Anna Delvey, real name Sorokin, painted such a vivid picture of herself as a German heiress that she swept away almost everyone she met. But her identity was a fiction, and the Manhattan socialite was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison for four counts of grand larceny and four counts of theft of services.

Fake Heiress explores things like her pre-New York past in more depth than the TV drama, but there will always be questions.

Where to start: The first episode takes a look back at Sorokin’s childhood and his first job at an exclusive Parisian magazine.

Stories of hunted

Stories from the Stalked Podcast

For the past 13 years, dancer Lily Baldwin has been stalked by a man whose name she knows but won’t reveal in this podcast. Telling her story could put her in more danger, warns a security expert she hired when the series was created.

The harassment started when she was performing in France with David Byrne, Brian Eno and Marianne Faithfull – one of 150 dates on an exhilarating tour. There she sat in a seat next to a stranger whom she didn’t even notice, but he kept claiming that she had kissed him. He followed her from Lyon to Lisbon via Edinburgh before writing to her at her parents’.

“We don’t worry about people saying they’re going to kill you. It’s the people who don’t say it, the people do it,’ is the ominous warning from the assistant district attorney of New York’s Special Victims Unit, as Lily bravely recounts the terrifying experience of being the subject. of an uncontrollable and totally unacceptable obsession.

Where to start: Listen to a sample on Audible.


Manslaughter Podcast

Dorothy Marcic’s 2018 book With One Shot is the result of a two-year mission to uncover the truth behind the murder of former police detective LaVerne Stordock. Now his grim true-crime story twist has been turned into a podcast with an intriguing start – LaVerne’s second wife who was found guilty of his murder after confessing and pleading insanity may not have been guilty after all.

The first episode requires a lot of focus as the people involved and the facts of the case are established. But it’s worth sticking with.

Where to start: Episode one or watch the trailer.

Michael Caine: Gangs

Michael Caine: Gangs

While the Italian Job star has spent some time wandering around east London near the Kray Twins, he’s the perfect person to narrate this podcast about gangs of all types and nationalities. His familiar tones bring a sense of security to the episodes – even when talking about Griselda ‘Black Widow’ Blanco killing a child when she was just 11 years old.

The Colombian drug lord, believed to be responsible for more than 200 deaths, is among a list of notorious criminals Caine arrests just before glorifying. To be fair, it’s hard to cover the subject without at least some listeners feeling thrilled by the respect these people demand from their followers – and, in the Krays episode, Caine pauses to remind us of the impact of their violence. But there isn’t much information about the victims, who are little more than names in the brothers’ life story.

Where to start: Ep. 4: Omertà looks back at the origins of the mafia. An Audible exclusive.

Polonium and the pianist

Polonium and the pianist
Polonium and the pianist

Sky News is behind this four-part investigation into the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006. The ex-KGB spy was in the piano bar of London’s five-star Millennium Hotel when the highly radioactive polonium-210 was tossed into his cup of green tea. tea by two secret agents.

But he wasn’t the only one concerned. Moscow correspondent Diana Magnay juxtaposes Litvinenko’s life with that of pianist Derek Conlon, who was playing in the bar that day.

Where to start: The first episode sets the scene.



Real-life cases of people faking their own deaths — and their motivations for doing so — are explored across nine episodes of this intriguing podcast. The practice is more common than you might think.

In 2001, fans of internet star Kaycee Nicole began to uncover the lies behind her death from leukemia. In 1974, a British MP who disappeared while swimming off a Miami beach was discovered and arrested. And, nearly a century after radical socialist Grace Oakeshott was presumed drowned, her great-granddaughter in New Zealand is realizing her identity.

Pseudocides are only part of the story – what makes this podcast so interesting are the human stories behind them.

Where to start: In The Strange Story of the Minute’s Silence, a footballer discovers that his teammates bizarrely faked his death in a motorcycle accident. A Spotify exclusive.

killer book club

killer book club

It may sound like Richard Osman’s latest novel, but it’s actually a true story, explored by documentary filmmaker Gillian Pachter. Gillian is American but the story is set in the strange and privileged world of an English boys’ school where victim Peter Farquhar first met his killer.

His former student Benjamin Field was convicted of his murder in 2019 after he admitted secretly drugging the retired English teacher. Gillian attempts to uncover their two true characters and investigate the events leading up to Farquhar’s death.

Where to start: The first episode sets the scene by visiting the peaceful country village where Peter Farquhar once lived and ran an exclusive book club. Available exclusively on Audible.

What makes a killer

What makes a killer

How did Stephen Port manage to lure four young men to death on the dating app Grindr before the police realized they were looking for a single culprit? Why did “Night Killer” Richard Ramirez terrorize California, killing people in their homes?

This podcast aims – and partially succeeds – in tracing the descent of serial killers into murder through interviews with forensic experts, witnesses and police officers. But it’s the harrowing conversations with family members that make this more than just a fairly cold exploration of events.

Where to start: The podcast looks at cases around the world, so start with Stephen Port’s episode if you want something closer to home.

Listening to the dead

Listening to the dead

Prime Suspect author Lynda LaPlante is at the forefront of this captivating exploration of forensic techniques to solve crimes. With 33 novels and 150 hours of television to her credit, she has spent many hours researching police procedures and accounts of her experiences are interspersed with interviews with experts.

These are led by CSI Cass Sutherland, a longtime Lynda advisor, and cover everything from fiber analysis to how the discovery of DNA transformed the entire field.

Where to start: Pollen expert Professor Patricia Wiltshire was working in the Department of Archeology at University College London when she started being called in to help solve murders, including the horrific Soham case in 2002.

Discover: Escape from NXIVM

Discover: Escape from NXIVM

The bizarre sex cult posing as a marketing coaching company is much better known now than when journalist Josh Bloch published this podcast in 2018. Since then, many disturbing details have come to light in a major US lawsuit and have hit the Netflix documentary The Vow.

But it’s worth coming back to Uncover to hear the story of Sarah Edmundson, former lawyer and NXIVM escapee, discovered and reported by her former school friend. As revelation follows revelation – bizarre branding rituals, an apparent pyramid scheme, a secret male-only group whose members have been encouraged to blame women for their problems – Josh struggles to reconcile the ex-comrade class who fled the cult fearing for his family with the high-ranking NXIVM who benefited financially and recruited others to join them.

Where to start: In the beginning.

Do you have a favorite podcast you’d like us to review? Let us know in the comments.

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