true crime podcasts

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: Revisiting the Wonderland Murders

Photo-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.

The Wonderland Murders & the Secret History of Hollywood, “The Unreliable Narrator”

Photo: Audible

Author Michael Connelly might be best known for penning a bevy of crime novels, including those on which the Amazon drama series Bosch is based. However, his latest venture has him playing detective, as he explores the Wonderland Murders. In this limited podcast series from Audible, Connelly conducts interviews and ushers audiences on his investigation into four unsolved murders that occurred in Los Angeles 40 years ago. The first episode finds him speaking with Scott Thorson, infamous for his complicated ties to the late Liberace. A controversial figure of the Hollywood scene, Thorson claims to be a crucial witness to this cold case. However, even a detective who believes his story describes the man as “one of the best liars in the world.” Is Thorson an unreliable narrator? That’s the first question Connelly strives to answer. —Kristy Puchko

Life After Happy Face, “Is He Dad or the Happy Face Serial Killer?”

Photo: ART19

Melissa Moore’s newest podcast project pairs her with forensic criminologist and friend Dr. Laura Pettler to interview people who were directly affected by homicides, whether they had relationships with the victims or were related somehow to the killer — a situation that Moore, the daughter of Happy Face Killer Keith Jesperson, is all too familiar with. Moore’s first podcast, Happy Face, explored this in-depth as she revisited her childhood memories and her father’s crimes. Her second, Happy Face Presents: Two Face, focused on another adult child of a killer looking for answers. This first episode of the latest podcast finds Moore in a new phase of life, freshly divorced and coping with the loss of her mother, and wondering if she’s ready to talk to her father and find out the “why” of it all. Pettler and Moore spend some time revisiting Jesperson’s first crime and Moore’s memories of that time in her life in unflinching detail. But what drew me in was Moore’s brief chat with retired cold-case investigator Paul Holes, and his insight into how she might approach her father. Future episodes will focus on interviews with other people; the second features a friend of Travis Alexander, who was murdered by Jodi Arias in 2008. —Jenni Miller

Criminal, “Episode 169: Masquerade”

Photo: Radiotopia

Phoebe Judge’s narrative podcast is at its best when it eschews hard crime altogether and focuses instead on wild, weird transgressions that don’t leave a body count (see: “Episode 153: The Max Headroom Incident”) — or, in the case of this week’s episode, don’t involve a crime at all. “Masquerade” tells the story of British author Kit Williams, whose 1979 picture book included carefully constructed clues that could lead readers to a real-life treasure — a golden hare buried somewhere in Britain. The location of said rabbit is only the first mystery in a twisty-turny tale of amateur sleuths, ex-girlfriends, and fake mustaches. (Every good caper needs a fake mustache!) I won’t say anymore, in order to preserve the mystery, but suffice it to say, if you need a break from all the murder and mayhem, queue up “Masquerade” and enjoy the ride. —Amy Wilkinson

Solvable by audiochuck, “The Long Bridge” & “Wrong Bridge, Wrong Bodies”

Photo: Audiochunk

It was a cold, rainy night in December of 1982, when a truck driver spotted a barefoot woman shuffling down an interstate in Jackson County, Mississippi. That on its own was a strange sight, but what made it more alarming was that a baby was wailing in her arms. Not long after, a dead infant was found off an interstate bridge. For nearly 40 years, this Baby Jane Doe was the center of a cold case that included another corpse, reported but never recovered, and a mysterious witness who went missing. To crack the case, co-hosts Amanda Reno and Greg Bodker conduct a series of interviews with police officers and the surviving family members of the recently identified baby. Reno brings a background as a genetic genealogist, who has used her skills to identify bodies and to aid in police investigations. Bodker offers 26 years of experience in law enforcement. Together, they take audiences back to that wet and horrid winter, accompanied by audio reenactments, a solemn score, and sound effects that brew an ominous atmosphere. [Note: All ten episodes of Solvable will drop on July 19.] —Kristy Puchko

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This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: The Wonderland Murders