true crime podcasts

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: Hunting the Butcher

Illustration: Vulture

The true-crime-podcast universe is ever expanding. We’re here to make it a bit smaller and 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 noteworthy and the exceptional. Each week, our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists will pick their favorites.

Good Assassins: Hunting the Butcher, “Episode 2: The Killer’s History”

This 12-part series is a sort of podcast adaptation of journalist Stephan Talty’s nonfiction book The Good Assassin, which uses bonus audio clips, interviews, a smattering of voice actors, and Talty himself to bring this harrowing tale of Israeli spies, World War II survivors, and one particularly confounding war criminal to life. Good Assassins is about the Mossad hunt for Herbert Cukurs, a celebrated aviator who took part in the genocide of Latvian Jews as part of the Arajs Kommando during World War II and later fled to Brazil before he could stand trial for his crimes. More than a grisly look at Cukurs’s crimes — although listeners should be aware the second episode is particularly rough — Good Assassins tells the story of the early days of Mossad, the survivors of the Shoah, and the fascinating spy hot on the Butcher’s trail. —Jenni Miller

Beyond Bardfstown: Lacombe, “More and More Afraid”

In July 2017, 49-year-old Nanette Krentel was found dead among the charred remains of her fortress like home in Lacombe, Louisiana. (Perhaps worth noting is that Nanette’s husband, Steve, was the parish fire chief.) The coroner’s findings revealed that Nanette’s cause of death was not the fire, but a bullet to the head. Katie Moore, an investigative reporter for WWL-TV in New Orleans, has been examining Nanette’s case since its inception, and in the second season of Bardstown (the first season explored five unsolved murders in the small town of Bardstown, Kentucky), she’s bringing us her findings. Episode three delves into the details of the stronghold Nanette created, which included a locked gate and cameras that showed every aspect of the property, and, of course, were burned in the fire. What compelled Nanette to hole up in her own home and carry a weapon everywhere she went? Moore’s reporting reveals Nanette’s fear, which was anything but unfounded, as well a host of suspects, including her brother-in-law and stepson. —Chanel Dubofsky

I Can Steal That!, “The Kentucky Book Heist”

Host Peter Stegemeyer bills I Can Steal That! as “the true-crime podcast that’s never too heavy.” And, friends, sometimes that’s just what the heart and mind need. For this week’s episode, Stegemeyer welcomes guest comedian Kevin Hurley to chat through a ridiculous caper that took place in 2004 on the campus of Transylvania University, located in — you guessed it — Lexington, Kentucky. The university is home to, perhaps surprisingly, a sizable collection of rare books, including a first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and John James Audubon’s Birds of America. And it’s these valuable tomes that a group of four friends set out to steal. Now, I invite you to pause for just a moment and think back to the various plans you hatched at the age of, say, 19. How did those go? Right. You can probably guess just how poorly this bumbling quartet fared. (In a 2007 Vanity Fair article on the heist, the magazine described it as “one part Ocean’s 11, one part Harold & Kumar.”) In addition to the silly charms of this case — in what I would almost dub an episode bonus — Hurley talks through his years working at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as a tour guide and just how easy it would be to steal something from the venerated institution. If you’re into that kind of thing. (And you have a group of seven hot women to help you …) —Amy Wilkinson

Real Stories Tapes: True Crime with Stephanie Bauer, “A Confession But No Evidence: Angel of Death”

There’s a distinctly sinister brand of serial killer who stalks hospital halls in search of prey. Efren Saldivar is such a slayer, abusing his position as a respiratory therapist to murder many under his care. When rumors of a “magic syringe” reach police, Saldivar is quick to admit to dozens of killings. However, the D.A. fears this unnervingly casual confession alone would not be enough to guarantee a conviction. So, the detectives have some literal digging to do. This disturbing case kicks off the new podcast series, which reworks documentary films into easy listening for true-crime fans. Over four episodes, TV personality Stephanie Bauer oversees the unfurling of Jeffrey Fine’s 2003 documentary Angel of Death. Interviews with the cops on the case, solemn narration, and the ambient sounds of hospitals, police stations, and a Southern California neighborhood under threat combine to create an investigation that envelops and entrances. —Kristy Puchko

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: Hunting the Butcher