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.
Conviction, full series drop
Who doesn’t love a good hard-boiled detective character? Especially when he’s real. Conviction, the latest offering from Gimlet Media and produced in partnership with the New York Times, delivers just that while exposing cracks in the justice system. Narrated by reporter Saki Knafo, the podcast follows private investigator Manny Gomez, an ex-cop who fights for young people in the Bronx who say they’ve been wrongfully arrested. Knafo brings listeners along as Gomez works on behalf of Pedro Hernandez, a teenager charged in a shooting he says he didn’t commit. In the first episode, Gomez finds plenty of holes in the case while listeners get a front-row seat to his unique brand of bravado. (Cue the silver Corvette convertible, pinstripe suit, and Phil Collins music!) As a former defense investigator, I love podcasts that follow criminal-justice crusaders. And although all seven chapters of the podcast dropped on February 4, you may not want to binge them at once. The details of this case are so rage-inducing — Hernandez’s case has been cited by civil-rights activists as an egregious example of police corruption — that a breather between episodes may be necessary to keep your blood pressure under control. —Lara Bricker
Murder Book: “San Francisco Calling”
From the guy who brought you Harry Bosch comes the new true-crime podcast, Murder Book. Before Michael Connelly was a best-selling author, he was a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and that experience adds great depth and color to the story he tells here of a 30-year-old cold case. In 1987, 21-year-old Jade Clark was parked outside of a Hollywood nightclub with friend Clifford Phillips in the passenger seat. A man approached the driver’s side door and a gunfight broke out, leaving Clark dead and few reliable witnesses. But through the dogged work of LAPD Detective Rick Jackson (whose matter-of-fact recollections figure prominently in the podcast) and his partner, a suspect finally emerged — a gang member named Pierre Romain. In this second episode, “San Francisco Calling,” the timeline jumps ahead 16 years. With no conviction in the case (it’s a long story told in episode one), Detective Jackson receives an unsettling call: Romain has applied to be a police officer in San Francisco. Yep, Connelly has found a real-life case that’s stranger than any fiction he could dream up. —Amy Wilkinson
Case Closed: “The Base”
This season of Case Closed focuses on the murder of Erin Corwin, a young Marine wife whose disappearance was the focus of the true-crime book Secrets of a Marine’s Wife by Shanna Hogan, and so far it’s pretty tantalizing — even if we know whodunit. (The hook for Cased Closed is that they only cover crimes that have been solved, one per season.) The first episode did a thorough job of introducing Erin and letting the listener get to know and care about her, from the homeschooled teen’s love of horses to her burgeoning relationship with Jon, her future husband. “The Base” is what hooked me, because that’s when we get to know the setting of Erin’s murder, the isolated Marine base in Twentynine Palms, California, in the Mojave Desert, and the people that made up their tiny social circle. It’s definitely unsettling, and knowing what’s to come doesn’t make it any less so. This season of Case Closed is hosted by Charlie Spicer, an executive editor at St. Martin’s Press, and features interviews and reporting by Hogan with Erin’s friends and family. —Jenni Miller
The Dropout: “A Star Is Born”
ABC Radio and ABC News Nightline continue to deftly build on their story of a massive biomedtech fraud in The Dropout. The latest installment builds on the surprising portrait of Theranos founder and self-made billionaire Elizabeth Holmes. Though not the kind of villain many true-crime fans relish, Holmes’s calculated image and ability to remain unbothered by the bad deeds she’s accused of make her the kind of antagonist listeners will love to hate. In “A Star Is Born,” we learn that while Holmes’s fame was rising, the house of cards that was her dubious blood-testing technology was starting to give way. What had been a laboratory shell game is now reaping real-world consequences for duped patients. Holmes’s journey from entrepreneur to con artist is utterly fascinating, and if cases of corporate malfeasance become a new subgenre in true-crime podcasting, they’d be served by following this podcast’s blueprint.