best of 2022

The Best True-Crime Podcasts of 2022

The genre remains as abundant as ever, and the year produced plenty of strong projects.

Photo-Illustration: Rowena Lloyd and Susanna Hayward; Photos: Courtesy of the Studios
Photo-Illustration: Rowena Lloyd and Susanna Hayward; Photos: Courtesy of the Studios

[Corn Kid voice] It’s crime!

Well, true crime. In the year of our lord 2022, the podcast genre remains as abundant as ever, and just as we are committed to highlighting great, interesting, and innovative shows that make distinct contributions to the medium, we figured we should do the same for true-crime podcasts, which are a universe unto their own.

We’re taking a broad approach to “true crime” for this list. While conventional understandings of the genre tend to carry specific connotations — a corpse, a mystery, a general salaciousness — we recognize the concept to cover a wide swathe of nonfiction works. To wit, a dead body doesn’t necessarily have to factor, and an insurrection (obviously) counts as a true political crime. All things considered, 2022 was a solid year for the genre: plenty of strong projects from a variety of perspectives and areas, complete with a clear knockout.


The Superhero Complex (Novel and iHeartMedia)

Photo: iHeartPodcasts

The notion of actual people being inspired by superhero comics enough to don a costume, risk their lives, and fight crime themselves is easy to dismiss as fantastical thinking gone awry. But the phenomenon is very real — the inspiration for Kick-Ass had to come from somewhere — and when it comes down to it, their motivations can be interpreted as a kind of mutual-aid-adjacent response to failures in policing and governance. In The Superhero Complex, David Weinberg (Welcome to LA) explores the texture of the “real-life superhero” by observing one of the more prominent and complicated figures in the community: Ben Fodor, a Seattleite who once led a group called the Rain City Superhero Movement. Weinberg and his team successfully straddle a thin line with this piece, navigating a delicate balance between taking Fodor seriously as a person and keeping an ironic remove from the mythology he’s trying to spin into existence.


Sympathy Pains (Neon Hum and iHeartMedia)

Photo: iHeartPodcasts

Let’s call Sympathy Pains a story of an emotional scam. Dr. Death’s Laura Beil digs into the exceedingly peculiar story of Sarah Delashmit, a woman who spent years weaving elaborate tales of personal misfortune to insinuate herself into other people’s lives … and into the center of their emotional labor, making herself the complete focus of another person’s care and attention. The most interesting thing about the show is its structure: The tale chiefly unspools through the recollections of several directly affected by Delashmit. All throughout, Sympathy Pains seems somewhat drawn to the mystery of Delashmit’s motivation and psychology, which, for the most part, is a question that can’t truly be answered with anything beyond speculation. But the show doesn’t ultimately press the point too much, which is great. At the end of the day, the series works much better as a portrait of the affected and the cost extracted by such elaborate lies.


I Was Never There (Wonder Media Network)

Photo: Wonder Media Network

A mother-daughter duo, Jamie and Karen Zelermyer, sets off to learn more about the disappearance of a family friend back in the ’80s: Marsha “Mudd” Farber, a West Virginia suburbanite turned hippie folk hero who ran an underground bar and sold drugs on the side. A solid procedural with a spiritual heart, the lasting appeal of this production lies in how it lingers in the trailing end of the American counterculture — when a generation’s hope for a radically different world curdles into something darker.


Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s (Spotify)

Photo: Partners in Crime Media

Connie Walker has long built a robust body of work dedicated to reinvestigating injustices against Indigenous women through her time at the CBC and now at Spotify’s Gimlet Media. Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s is both an expansion and a deepening of her project with Walker turning inward to explore a story in her own family. The instigating mystery revolves around a violent episode stemming from her father’s history as a student in one of Canada’s notorious “residential schools,” which were set up by the government to systematically isolate Indigenous children from their native culture. What emerges is a moving investigation via oral history and an affecting recognition of the close relationship between the personal and the political.


Death of an Artist (Pushkin Industries and Somethin’ Else)

Photo: Pushkin Industries

Art-world veteran Helen Molesworth reconsiders the 1985 death of Cuban American artist Ana Mendieta, who fell from her Manhattan apartment during an argument with her husband, the celebrated minimalist artist Carl Andre, who was a prime suspect in her demise. Although packaged with a classic true-crime hook, Death of an Artist has more on its mind, offering itself up as a window into the art world and the many long-standing issues of power, legacy, and memory contained within. It’s largely successful in this regard, as the series shepherds the listener through questions of how the art world is structured, how “geniuses” are appointed and protected, and who gets to last. Your mileage may vary on the insight, but if you’re at all interested in the ornate interiors of the art world, Death of an Artist leaves a mark.


Finding Tamika (Audible, SBH Productions, Color Farm Media, and Molten Heart)

Photo: Audible Originals

On paper, Finding Tamika might come across as a fairly straightforward true-crime enterprise, albeit one that endeavors to draw heightened attention to how missing Black women are routinely ignored by larger systems of police and public attention. The specific woman in question is Tamika Huston, a South Carolinian whose disappearance in the mid-aughts sparked a debate over these questions of structural invisibility and how race played a role in the wanting manner in which the original investigation was handled. But the marvel of Finding Tamika is in all the exuberant ways it tinkers with the genre. It comes together as some mixture of true-crime reportage, literary nonfiction, neo-noir portrait, and sonic abstraction that’s all bound together by some compelling sound design. Host Erika Alexander, who co-writes the series with James T. Green, functions as an emotional conduit for the stakes of this project, and holistically shepherds the series toward a more tangible idea of who Huston was, the community she left behind, and what the legacy of her disappearance continues to mean. While the individual components don’t always cohere into a larger whole, Finding Tamika is an ambitious construction that should be reckoned with.

Available on Audible


Will Be Wild (Pineapple Street and Wondery)

Photo: Pineapple Street Media/Amazon Music

Given the sheer amount of stuff that’s been produced about the January 6th insurrection from just about every conceivable direction, Will Be Wild started out with the daunting task of justifying its existence: What will it bring to an increasingly crowded table? The series finds its answer in clarity. By the end, Will Be Wild turns out to be less about generating any singular revelation than it is about simply constructing a framework to process the ever-sprawling threads pertaining to the American response toward the insurrection. Led by Trump Inc.’s Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, Will Be Wild bounced through the perspectives of individuals from various corners of the event: the insurrectionists, their compatriots, their loved ones, the people who tried to raise the alarm, and so on. When placed in context of each other, the threads lock into place. Will Be Wild best serves as a kind of totem: something to fall back on when the inevitable next beat in this ongoing ordeal feels more confusing and frustrating than the last.


Burn Wild (BBC)

Photo: BBC

In the face of the global climate crisis and the existential threat it portends, what actions are extreme … and what are merely rational? That’s the philosophical question raised at the heart of Burn Wild, the latest collaboration between the independent journalist Leah Sottile and audio producer Georgia Catt that tracks the story of two fugitive ecoterrorists associated with the Earth Liberation Front. Both continue to loom large: One of them, Josephine Sunshine Overaker, is still considered to be at large by the FBI, while the other, Joseph Dibee, was recently caught and whose trial serves as the rough backbone for the season. Like Sottile’s previous audio work — which includes two stellar seasons of Bundyville that observed the still-very-much-active Bundy family and the armed uprisings they continue to inspire — Burn Wild melds together sober reporting, captivating tape, and a grounded, complex look at the politics of extremism.

2. Chameleon: Wild Boys (Campside Media and Sony Music Entertainment)

Photo: Campside Media

Of all the true-crime-flavored series to have come out this year, Chameleon: Wild Boys was the most genuinely surprising. The season revisits a story that took place in the rural British Columbia town of Vernon sometime in the early aughts, when two ragged-looking boys suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the tiny community. They claimed to be from the wilderness, children born somewhere out in the woods. The town took them in out of the goodness of their hearts, and the entire peculiar situation would eventually have the misfortune of becoming a media sensation. Of course, nothing is what it seems, and as you would expect, things spiral from there. Hosted by Vernon native Sam Mullins and produced by Abukar Adan, Wild Boys starts out as a quirky mystery and becomes something tender and soulful by the end as it sits with the emotional aftermath of this strange spectacle.

1. Bone Valley (Lava for Good and iHeartMedia)

Photo: Lava Productions, LLC

Bone Valley is the best pure true-crime podcast series of the year. For one thing, it’s a wrongful-conviction procedural executed to near perfection, and the series has the added benefit of an intriguing push and pull between the dual voices driving the narration: that of Gilbert King, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist whose old-school radio voice is all gravitas, and producer Kelsey Decker, who injects a tangible sense of human uncertainty into the combined perspective. The case they cover is the 1987 killing of a woman in Florida, Michelle Schofield, which resulted in the incarceration of her husband despite the fact that evidence linking him to the murder is tenuous at best. Bone Valley goes the distance, culminating in the extraction of a confession — the truth? — from a person strongly believed to be the true culprit decades after the fact. Whether or not the revelation leads to a rectification of justice remains an open question through the end of the series. This is a wrongful-conviction podcast, after all, and it arrives at a picture of judicial failure, cut only slightly by a hope that actual justice may someday be realized.

Honorable Mentions

Crooked City: Youngstown, OH (


It’s the musicality of this show that hooked me more than anything else. Marc Smerling, co-creator of Crimetown, returns with what is basically a spiritual continuation of that early Gimlet Media hit. Here you’ll find Crimetown’s interest in a city’s relationship with crime, politics, and power superimposed onto Youngstown, a quintessential Rust Belt city in the great state of Ohio. Crooked City’s historical narrative largely wraps itself around the political rise and fall of Jim Traficant, a native son who would become a corrupt congressman, but Smerling and his team really take time to explore their interests. The series constantly ambles outward and inward, ducking into various narrative alleyways to take stock of the city’s other historical threads. It’s packaged and delivered through Smerling’s raconteur-esque narration, all sly enthusiasm. Crooked City is a true-crime show that’s not beholden to a driving mystery, and what a delight it is.

Vigilante (Kast Media)

Photo: Kast Media

Allie Conti, a journalist and newly licensed private investigator, heads down to Dickinson, Texas, on the invitation of a man named Tim Miller, who has cultivated a fair amount of fame over the years as a successful search-and-rescue operator locating missing persons. The trip isn’t for a simple profile, however. As Conti learns, Miller, whose daughter was murdered decades earlier, seems convinced that he’s figured out who did it — and how he may rain hell on this person. Although rough around the edges, Vigilante is an unexpectedly sticky show that’s almost noirlike in its texture. The nature of what Conti is witnessing shifts before her eyes as she spends more time drifting deeper into Miller’s world, filled with distrusting cops and gray characters and messy hunger for retribution.

The Best True-Crime Podcasts of 2022