Want a true crime podcast that makes you scream, “Oh, my God, the twists and turns of this are unbelievable – it’s like a rainbow crafted by a drunken leprechaun!” just like Oliver in Only Murders in the Building? You've come to the right place.
Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez shine as true crime obsessives Oliver, Charles and Mabel, haphazardly curating their own audio efforts as something shocking goes down in their building – and it'll be back for a third season soon, hurrah! – but what if you're out and about this weekend and want to fill that whodunnit void in your life with an actual podcast?
Let's kill that journey (in a good way). Remember: we need to focus. Only murders in the building…
1. To Live and Die in LA
Ah, Los Angeles: Hollywood Walk of Fame, palm trees, the thought that celebrity status is just one casting call away. Wannabe actress and model, Adea Shabani, comes to LA from Macedonia hoping for all of the above, only to vanish from outside her apartment one day in February 2018 – no trace, no explanation.
Rolling Stone and New York Times writer Neil Strauss sets about unpicking exactly what happened to Shabani, and his discoveries are nothing short of astonishing.
Strauss’ brand of investigative journalism is compelling to say the least – it constantly feels as if he's either heading on a wild and ridiculous goose chase, or about to unearth a key clue that could solve the whole case. And there are two series (aka two different cases) to get through, too.
One of the most chilling take-aways we learned from the pod is this: if you go to takeout.google.com on your computer, you can see a list of everything that Google is storing about you – your emails, contacts, web searches, app activity, browsing history... and most chillingly of all, your location history. Click a button, and this can be sent to you in one easy set of zip files. Unless you personally go into your account and modify these specific options, all of this and more is being tracked and stored. Yes, even from the days when you cleared your browser history…
2. Last Podcast on the Left
Want to hear about the time two M&M's factory workers had to get rescued from a vat of melted chocolate? Because rather than a linear narrative focussing on one true crime, this is one you can, ahem, dip into whenever you feel peckish.
Also on the agenda might be the woman who married a ragdoll and claims to have conceived its child, the Arby's manager caught urinating into the milkshake mix, a South Carolina haunted house attendant who was accidentally shot twice or a group of men arrested for assaulting a monitor lizard.
Host Ben Kissel, researcher Marcus Parks and comedian Henry Zebrowski (Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, Heroes Reborn) have recorded over 700 episodes to select from and whatever floats your boat in terms of true crime and the bizarre antics human beings are capable of, you'll find something for you here.
Be warned: you're going to feel guilty for laughing, but you will laugh (we had to actually leave public transport for guffawing too much).
3. No Strings Attached
Adult themes from the start here. Some murder attempts simply couldn't be made up and this one, played out at 90MPH mid-air, 4,000 feet above a field in Wiltshire UK, is as implausible as they come.
No Strings Attached is the story of Emile Cilliers and his failed attempt to murder his wife by sabotaging her parachute – but somehow, Vicky Cilliers survived the planned sky-dive (although Emile's underestimation of his wife's talent and expertise was a big snafu there, given that she's an advanced free-fall instructor).
It's all investigated and relayed by ITV news correspondent Robert Murphy and, although we might have worried it'd all go a bit tabloid and sensationalist, it doesn't.
The insatiable appetite of the Wiltshire Police to uncover Cillier’s multiple crimes and despicable intentions is celebrated, as is Detective Constable Maddy Hennah, an individual who will revive your faith in human nature in amongst all of this hideous conduct and deceit.
Also, a lower sky-dive (so 4,000 feet versus a 13,000 feet) is often called a "hop and pop". Every day is a learning day…
Listen to No Strings Attached on Spotify.
First off, don't expect funny quips a la OMITB. What you need to know is that Susan Powell disappeared in 2009 and her body has never been discovered. Although Josh, her husband, was a prime suspect from the get-go, he was never arrested or charged.
Second, don't expect a quick fix; you won't solve this one on your commute. Across 18 often chilling hour-long episodes (plus three bonus add-ons) Dave Cawley lays out the case in quite gruesome detail. Yes, it's a tough listen from the outset, but Cawley makes you feel supremely involved and respected as a listener – a mark of any great audio curation.
Expect incredibly open and emotional interviews with members of the Powell family, but what's equally as interesting is that Cawley goes into full detective mode here too, adding excerpts from Susan’s diary and recordings from the Powell family's home in each instalment.
This true crime story is both brutal and frustrating; there's the desperation of the police, who are unable to conclusively pin culpability on Susan’s husband and, as the title of this pod suggests, the cold nature of the case to contend with.
If you're prepared to stay in it for the long haul though, this is a truly gripping listen.
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.