true crime podcasts

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: The Last Days of August, Monster, and More

Photo: Vulture

The true-crime podcast universe is ever expanding. We’re here to make it a bit smaller, a bit more manageable. There are a lot of great shows and each has a lot of great episodes, so we want to highlight the exceptional, the noteworthy. Each week, our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists will pick their favorites. To read the last edition, click here. And to see our list of the ten best true-crime podcasts of 2018, click here.

The Last Days of August

Adult actress August Ames took her own life on December 5, 2017. At first it was chalked up to cyberbullying after she’d inadvertently set off a social-media shit storm by tweeting that she’d canceled a scene with a male performer who did “gay porn.” For Jon Ronson, who wrote So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed about cyberbullying and did a podcast about the adult world with reporter Lina Misitzis called The Butterfly Effect, it seems like a natural fit, but what they found was much more complicated than that. While they don’t entirely sidestep the typical tropes about the adult industry — yes, Ames had a history of trauma; yes, there are relationships between controlling older men and naive young women — they don’t make their investigation feel exploitative or gross. This is currently only available as a sort of podcast/audiobook hybrid on Audible. — Jenni Miller

Monster: The Zodiac Killer: “In the Shadows” and “Lover’s Lane”

Following the success of his true-crime podcasts Up and Vanished and Atlanta Monster, creator and host Payne Lindsey will attempt to spin the latter into its own bona fide franchise, with this week’s launch of a second season focusing on one of the most famous cold cases in U.S. history: the Zodiac Killer. Operating in Northern California during the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the Zodiac is confirmed to have killed at least five people — though he claims 37 — having boasted of his exploits to the Bay Area press through several coded letters. Over the ensuing 50 years, the Zodiac has become one of pop culture’s indelible boogeymen, most memorably canonized in the 2007 David Fincher film starring Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhaal. Now Lindsey, with the help of Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know host Matt Frederick, interviews those involved with the case (everyone from investigators to victims’ family members) to reexamine the evidence. But to what end isn’t completely clear — it’s hard to imagine this 15-episode series will accomplish what countless police, journalists, and armchair detectives haven’t over the past five decades. But with its intriguing first-person accounts (it’s kind of amazing how many sources are still alive!), I’ll be tuning in for any possible new insights into this always-engrossing mystery. — Amy Wilkinson

The Fall Line: “Kidnappings”

This season of The Fall Line focuses on seven infant kidnappings from the Grady hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. This episode examines the psychological reasons why female kidnappers might steal a newborn from a hospital — or even a fetus from its still-living mother, as in the case of Teka Adams and her aptly named baby Miracle. The 1978 kidnapping of Donna Green’s newborn, Raymond, remains unsolved to this day, and hopefully more media attention will help get to the bottom of this tragic event. As part of the Exactly Right Podcast Network, which was itself started by My Favorite Murderer hosts and writers Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark in association with Stitcher, The Fall Line is deeply researched and empathetic; the hosts prefer to be known only as a professor and a licensed therapist lest their identities detract focus from the victims and survivors. — Jenni Miller

They Walk Among Us: “Season 3, Episode 26” and “Season 3, Episode 27”

There hadn’t been a murder on the sleepy Scottish islands of Orkney in 25 years. That is, until a masked man walked into Mumataz Restaurant in 1994 and shot 26-year-old waiter Shamsuddin Mahmood. The resulting investigation, trial, conviction, and attempted escape (twice!) of the perpetrator span decades, and are told here in rigorous, often-twisty detail. And while the second episode admittedly drags just a bit as trial details are painfully recounted, you’ll want to stick to the end to tie up (almost) every loose thread. Because, as they say, there are always 20 sides to every story. —Amy Wilkinson

Crime Junkie: “Missing Asha Degree”

The unsolved disappearance of 9-year-old Asha Degree in 2000 is chilling. As far as anyone knows, the otherwise un-rebellious girl packed her backpack full of supplies and set off into the night. She was spotted on the side of the road and ran off into the woods, and some of the things she was thought to have brought with her have been found in the area, but nothing that would count as solid, incontrovertible evidence of how or why she disappeared — or what happened to her. Hosts Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat comb through this open case, looking at every publicly known piece of evidence and puzzling over the details and possibilities, including recently released information that has caused local officials to reopen the case. Hopefully, more media attention will encourage people to come forward with more information so her family can have some peace. — Jenni Miller

This week’s reviewers: Jenni Miller and Amy Wilkinson.

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