2018 has been the year I’ve really immersed myself in the world of podcasts. I think this has been driven by my desire to avoid hearing the news much as it’s all too frustrating!
Four bodies are found in barrels in New Hampshire woodland. A public radio news reporter is asked to attend a police news conference about the cold case investigating those bodies and gets hooked on trying to find out more. Follow as he investigates this story which eventually leads to a serial killer, and the groundbreaking use of DNA in a method which is now changing how investigations are conducted the world over.
In the Dark
Both seasons of this superb investigative series from Minnesota public radio are gripping tales of loss and murder. The reporters go beyond ‘whodunnit’ to look at searing policy implications around how sheriffs and district attorneys in the USA have scant oversight, leaving the public with little recourse should they misbehave or be incompetent.
Someone Knows Something
Each of the 5 seasons so far of this podcast series, from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC, the public service broadcaster of Canada – bit like the BBC), is different but wonderful. Presenter David Ridgen has a long history of documentary work and investigations which we slowly learn more about over the episodes. He brings a degree of introspection and care to the podcasts which can be deeply moving, particularly as he works so closely with the families of victims. I can’t commend these highly enough.
I’ve been on a bit of a podcast listening binge recently so wanted to share some of the best of the crop.
BBC Intrigue: The Ratline
Philippe Sands, a lawyer specialising in international law, presents this genuinely gripping series looking into the story of Otto Wachter – a senior Nazi responsible for the death of a significant part of Sands’ family.Wachter managed to escape justice at the end of the war before dying in hiding under mysterious circumstances. Not only fascinating in terms of the main story, the background of a world re-organising on new polarities post-war but also on how the children of Nazis cope with the sins of their fathers especially through the 80 year old sone of Wachter’s participation.
Esther Perel: Where should we begin?
Imagine this – one of the world’s most highly regarded relationship therapists lets you in to listen on her sessions with couples. That’s what you get with “Where should we begin?” Perel’s team have worked to bring together a fascinating array of couples who Perel expertly counsels. Even more compelling are the moments when Perel adds in her reflections and regrets on hearing the sessions over again. I was hooked and binge listened to both series on Apple Podcasts in a matter of days. There’s a third series just out, only on Audible, I’ve not yet listened to that.
Death in Ice Valley
I heard Alan Carr mention this on an interview with Jo Whiley and Simon Mayo. It was a completely chance moment as I almost never listen to Radio 2 nor Alan Carr! But something about how they described this podcast made me look it up. And I’m so glad I did. A joint production between the BBC and NRK (the Norwegian public service broadcaster) this investigates the mysterious death of a still un-identified woman discovered near Bergen, Norway in November 1970. I listened to this while on early morning holiday walks in sunny Cyprus, but the richness of the production transported me to a cold, rainy Norway every time. A really marvellous series – must listen.
The BBC World Service’s Owen Bennett-Jones takes us through the tumultuous story of Benazir Bhutto’s life, and violent death. Having been personally present through many of the key moments in Bhutto’s political life Bennett-Jones brings an energy to this series which is filled with a sense of his love for Pakistan mixed in with his despair at the many failings in its political and legal systems. Pretty much everyone covered in this series emerges as tarnished in some way – by corruption, failure to act, malevolence or plain incompetence. The violence surrounding the recent blasphemy case in Pakistan now makes more sense to me having listened to this series. This isn’t just a series trying to find out who killed Bhutto, and why; but also lifts the lid on how militants, the Taliban, Pakistani military, the US and others are all strangely interconnected.