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.
The Lazarus Heist, “Hacking Hollywood” and “Disaster Movie”
If you’re looking to fill a Hollywood Con Queen–sized hole in your podcast queue, let me recommend this new tale of international intrigue from the folks at BBC News. Hosted by journalists Jean Lee and Geoff White, The Lazarus Heist dives deep into the cybercrimes perpetuated by the so-called Lazarus Group, which is best-known for the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures, which not only leaked confidential (and sometimes cringeworthy) company information, but also the personal data of about 4,000 employees. The group has alleged ties to North Korea, and in these first two episodes, Lee and White do a good job explaining the cultural and socioeconomic climate within which they operate. (The podcast begins with the production of the Seth Rogen– and James Franco–starring satirical film The Interview, which many think precipitated the hack, and works its way forward from there.) This is all building up to the group’s eventual hacking attempt of $1 billion. Because as they say in the movies: “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.” —Amy Wilkinson
Stay Away From Matthew MaGill, “Part 3: Cindy”
The idea of what we leave behind is a haunting obsession for many of us, myself included — and given the popularity of estate sales and shows like Antique Roadshow, I know I’m not alone. So when journalist and podcast producer Eric Mennel was given a box of stuff left behind by a strange loner named Matthew MaGill, Mennel did what many of us would love to do — he set out to discover which of the tall tales MaGill told about his life were true. As we learn from interviews with MaGill’s ex-wife Jenny O’Hara in the second episode, and his ex-partner Cindy in the third, Matthew wasn’t your average small-town kook: He was a narcissistic, abusive, womanizing jerk. And, honestly, I’m not sure we need more podcasts about those. (O’Hara, on the other hand, needs a book deal stat.) However, Mennel is a terrific storyteller, and the way he weaves his own memories of Florida and his family make Stay Away more than another podcast about, as Mennel puts it, “a run-of-the-mill bad man.” Come for the Florida Man weirdness, stay for the complicated family feels. (The entire series is available to listen to now on Audacy.) —Jenni Miller
The Perfect Scam, “Hacker Uses Skills to Take Down a Phone Scam Operation”
If you want to be hip to scammers’ tricks, check out AARP’s weekly podcast. Host Bob Sullivan interviews victims, experts, and con artists to break down rampant schemes, both how they work and how to outsmart the crooks. In this episode, Sullivan speaks with the mysterious “Jim Browning,” a vigilante hacker who relishes beating phone scammers at their own game. It all began when this tech-savvy engineer, who is interviewed under an alias, was pestered by spam calls about online orders he hadn’t made. Those who fall victim to this ploy might be fleeced for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. However, Jim has hacked the hackers. He listens into their calls as if they’re on a police scammer and employs spyware to peep their computer screens. All so he can swoop in with a crucial phone call before the shady payday is made. Not only does this episode educate, but it entertains, exploring the fascinating Good Samaritan who saves the day yet bristles at being called a “hero.” –Kristy Puchko
Sistas Who Kill, “Daphne Wright”
Sistas Who Kill is a podcast about black women who murder, hosted by best friends MaRah and Taz. In their latest episode, they examine the case of Daphne Wright, a deaf lesbian from North Dakota currently serving life in prison for the 2006 murder of Darlene VanderGiesen, another deaf woman, whom Wright perceived as posing a threat to her relationship with her partner, Sallie Collins. There’s also a chainsaw purchase (“not in the budget”), a really bad paint job done to the basement of a rental house, and a discussion of the layout of Pizza Hut. The jury that convicted Wright was composed of white, hearing women, and the accommodations made for her to understand what was happening during the trial were shabby at best. MaRah and Taz go deep into the question of whether or not Wright actually got a fair trial and what that means for other disabled people interacting with court systems. —Chanel Dubofsky
More From This Series
- This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: Spies From Russia
- This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: Hunting the Butcher
- This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: From Maine to the O.C.