In the Dark & 5 more investigative crime podcasts

Our latest podcast column delves into the murky world of true crime investigate with the fantastic In The Dark podcast

Feature by Brian Cloughley | 13 Feb 2019
  • In the Dark

If you take an event in your life in isolation, it can be difficult to be sure that you’ve been a victim of discrimination. You didn’t get the job, and that might be because of your gender/race/sexuality/disability/age, but at the same time it might be because of your appalling attitude, bad timekeeping and overuse of sexual swear words. It’s a miracle you got an interview, to be honest. Guy doesn’t give the job to a woman? Well, perhaps he had legitimate reasons. Guy doesn’t give the job to a woman 100 consecutive times? Yeah, probably something funny going on.

This is the premise underneath the fine second season of the In The Dark podcast. An all-white jury in the American Deep South convicts a black man of murder despite minimal evidence? Well, that’s not definitely racist. Same thing happens six times to the same guy? Yeah, maybe it is.

The 11 bingeable episodes of this investigative podcast cover the sad tale of four people murdered in Winona, Mississippi in 1996. The police quickly took a fancy to unremarkable local man Curtis Flowers, and as a result he’s spent 21 years caught in a ghoulish Groundhog Day – tried, convicted, put on death row, verdicts overturned (or ruled as mistrials), released, immediately re-arrested for the same crimes. Repeat.

Enter radio producer Madeleine Baran and her hugely impressive team of researchers. They spent a year in Winona knocking on doors, facing down nefarious District Attorneys, and tracking down and cataloguing a mountain of new evidence (documented in minute detail on their website). As a result of their digging, Flowers is going to get another day in court. Not just any court either – the Actual US Supreme Court (to give it its full title). You have to say, that is top podcasting.

The first season of In The Dark (which is also excellent) was about the abduction of a young boy from the American Midwest. That was a story that unfolded episode by episode, with each revelation making the authorities appear increasingly foolish. Structurally, the second season is a bit different – the story of the murders and Flowers’ persecution are sadly predictable, so Baran and her team instead methodically dismantle every argument and piece of evidence that the prosecution has offered. Meanwhile, the listener’s emotions move from outrage to disbelief, followed by fury, pity, sorrow and hope, before settling on outrage again.

The other contrast is that in Season One the police and prosecutors were made to look like arrogant, incompetent clowns. Here, they’re made to look like outright bastards.

5 More Investigative Crime Podcasts

1) Doctor Death – From the team that brought you Dirty John. These guys certainly have a knack for catchy titles and crime investigations that verge on rubbernecking. This series involves cocaine-fuelled gonzo spinal surgery, which is unsurprisingly entertaining.

2) Conviction – A non-fatal shooting in the Bronx might not sound especially podworthy, but Conviction succeeds by reigning in its ambition. Its atmospheric interviews with dodgy policemen, eccentric private eyes, and bemused bystanders don’t need broad-brushed social commentary to be effective.

3) Broken Harts – A whydunnit rather than a whodunnit, this is about a couple driving their SUV off a cliff with their six kids in the back. And, yes, it’s grim.

4) Somebody Knows Something – According to the website, host David Ridgen has “a proven record of solving cold cases”. That’s extraordinarily hard to believe. His podcast is strangely compelling but also unintentionally funny – this guy’s great at doorstepping surprised Canadians but rubbish at solving crimes.

5) S-Town – The high-water mark for investigative podcasts – and quite possibly podcasts in general. If you missed this journey into the life of John B. McLemore when it was released in 2017, we implore you to give it a listen now. It’s as gripping and relevant as ever.