In Review

Podcasts of the week: from true crime to a true-crime drama

Featuring Killer Book Club, RedHanded, Criminal, Radioman and Lady Killers With Lucy Worsley

With true-crime podcasts coming out all the time, it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, said The Daily Telegraph. Here are three series that stand out. Killer Book Club is a “riveting” eight-parter about the brutal murder of an apparently mild-mannered book-club member by one of his former students. The podcast’s creator and narrator, Gillian Pachter, “spins it into a cracking, intrigue-laden yarn, as well as a fascinating disquisition on all kinds of Britishness”.

The long-running and award-winning RedHanded is a “breath of fresh air”. Hosted with wit and energy by Suruthi Bala and Hannah Maguire, it probes “little-known horrors in meticulous detail, and with a healthy dose of British banter”.

Criminal remains the benchmark for “true crime with class”. Narrator Phoebe Judge guides the listener through everything from mass murder to the history of bootlegging. “Part legal exploration, part human story, Criminal is the kind of true crime you can listen to without worrying about your moral degradation”.

Lady Killers With Lucy Worsley “commits many of the sins I have previously railed against in BBC Sounds podcasts”, said James Marriott in The Times: it has unnecessary sound effects, cheesy dramatic reconstructions and too much happening at once. Still, getting the “posh-voiced telly historian” to investigate historical murders committed by women was a great idea, and – with the help of assorted historians, barristers and crime writers – she does it really well.

There are readings of “eyepoppingly passionate love letters” and intriguing discussions of extramarital sex in Victorian England, for example – and explorations of the likely power dynamics in the relationships Worsley uncovers. It’s “genuinely illuminating”.

Audible’s new audio drama Radioman is set in a fictional former mining town in northern England, where a local radio host has decided to launch a true-crime podcast called Crimesville. The listener follows the host, Chas Jones (played by Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj CosterWaldau) as he documents an investigation into a local murder that is being led by his drinking buddy, DCI Ian Whittaker (David Morrissey).

It sounds tricksy, said Fiona Sturges in the Financial Times, but the “tension builds up nicely”. A big draw for keen “audiophiles” is the involvement of Benbrick, the sound artist who produced the acclaimed Have You Heard George’s Podcast? and the “equally inventive” comedy series Futile Attempts (At Surviving Tomorrow). On Radioman, the “sound is superb”: multilayered and immersive without ever being intrusive (and best enjoyed via headphones). And the music, which “laps artfully around the dialogue, is original and gorgeous”.

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