true crime podcasts

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: This Land, Dr. Death, and More

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.

This Land, “Behind the Curtain” 

When Sandy White Hawk was 18 months old, she was kidnapped from the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota under the guise of having a “better life” with a white family. This wasn’t a random abduction, nor was it an aberration — while Sandy was growing up in an abusive home with said white family, the Association of American Indian Affairs revealed the results of a national survey, in which it learned that 25–35 percent of all Native children were missing. In the second season of This Land, host Rebecca Nagle examines the motivation behind these kidnappings and custody battles (spoiler: It’s not about the children) and what their relationship is to the present-day struggle for Native rights. Episode two dissects the right wing’s attack on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the bizarre but effective strategy undertaken by the Brackeen family, who filed a federal lawsuit after winning their custody case. Do yourself a favor and listen. — Chanel Dubofsky

Some Place Under Neith, “The 23 Pipeline Pt III — Hell’s Potpourri”

Some Place Under Neith comes from the Last Podcast network and focuses on missing and murdered women, from Shelly Miscavige to victims of the Institute in Basic Life Principles cult, made famous by the Duggar clan. This three-parter is about the women in and around Chillicothe, Ohio, who have gone missing and/or turned up dead under mysterious circumstances as chronicled in Joe Berlinger’s eight-part series Gone: The Forgotten Women of Ohio — it’s a tragic tale that co-host Natalie Jean traces all the way back to the Sackler family and the invention of OxyContin, to present-day pill mills, struggling small towns in Appalachian Ohio, and survival and/or coerced sex work. Natalie Jean and co-host Amber Nelson are part of the Last Podcast family — they’re collaborators and IRL friends/partners with some of the LPoTL folks, which I mention because they do have a similar vibe of morbid irreverence that will probably turn some listeners off. — Jenni Miller

​​Dr. Death: Miracle Man, “Lab Rats”

The third season of Dr. Death, once again hosted by Laura Beil, is both a tale of medical malpractice and a romance gone wrong, with thoracic surgeon Paolo Macchiarini at the center of it all. The Italian physician claimed to be on the cutting edge of science, performing tracheal-implant surgeries using synthetic tracheas. And he had everyone fooled — until people started dying. The bamboozled included NBC News producer Benita Alexander, who was shadowing the doctor for a documentary-style program about his work and later became his girlfriend, then fiancée. But Macchiarini wasn’t just conning people professionally; he was doing it personally, too. (His claim that the pope himself was going to conduct their wedding ceremony should have been a red flag for Alexander …) Anyway, though it took some time, fellow doctors began raising alarms about Macchiarini, and the results of their inquiries constitute the bulk of “Lab Rats.” But the episode’s ending moments prove the most thrilling as Alexander, who had continued a lovey-dovey ruse with Macchiarini even after his lies were revealed, declares: “I was in full-on investigative mode, and now it was my turn to act.” — Amy Wilkinson

Crime Show, “A Man With No Name” 

In 1990, a man found himself wandering around a mall in Cincinnati, Ohio, with no memory of who he was or why the tip of his finger had been severed. He was diagnosed with dissociative amnesia — but what was he disassociating from? Crime Show is a biweekly podcast about crime, but the stories are recounted by the people who lived them. In the latest episode, host Emma Courtland walks us through how the identity of the man in the mall was uncovered. There’s truth serum involved, as well as an elementary-school yearbook, an interrupted road trip, too many coincidences, and a connection to a horrific crime. It raises many thorny questions: Can someone ever atone for something they don’t remember doing? Can you confirm that someone really has amnesia? And what does it mean when someone’s trauma is caused by a crime that they committed? — Chanel Dubofsky

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: This Land and Dr. Death