True crime podcasts have already come a long way since Serial broke records in 2014, branching out to cover a range of crimes from a range of different perspectives. Yet as this rundown of the 13 best true crime podcasts of 2018 will show, for all their wide varieties, the best all have one thing in common: they explore our society, psychologies and relationships just as much as crime itself.

Note: These podcasts are free unless marked (there is only one that isn’t free).

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Atlanta Monster: A Fascinating Podcast for Unsolved Crime Fans

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 Atlanta Monster is as much a doc about the late ’70s and early ’80s as it is a true crime podcast.

Made by the same producers as Up and Vanished, Atlanta Monster documents the Atlanta Child Murders, a spate of killings and disappearances that gripped Atlanta between 1979 and 1981. The podcast is hosted by documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsey, who examines the unanswered questions of the case with a cool, dispassionate eye. What distinguishes it is not only its extensive use of testimony from experts and residents, but also its attention-to-detail in recreating the late ’70s/early ’80s, mostly via the medium of music from the era.

What We Like

  • The deeply immersive recreation of the era and context.
  • The examination of society, race and class.

What We Don’t Like

  • The ads that open each episode, although these can easily be skipped.
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West Cork: Best True Crime Podcast of a Cold Case

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 West Cork offers true crime fans a probing insight into the psychological makeup of its main suspect.

A cold-case podcast in the vein of Serial and Atlanta Monster, the 13 episodes of West Cork focus on the unsolved 1996 murder of French TV producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Hosted by investigative journalist Sam Bungey and TV producer Jennifer Forde, the podcast doesn’t simply examine the unanswered questions surrounding du Plantier’s violent murder, but it also offers a probing psychological study of the main suspect, as well as an exposé of how the original investigation was botched by the police.

What We Like

  • The very comprehensive inquiry into the case, and its use of multiple sources and points of view.

What We Don’t Like

  • The podcast isn’t free, requiring a subscription to Amazon’s Audible service (although the latter offers a free 30-month trial).
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Criminal: Best Crime Podcast for Variety

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 Criminal’s period-hopping reconstructions arguably make it the most educational true crime podcast.

For those who want to immerse themselves in different crimes and contexts with each new instalment, Criminal is probably the best true crime podcast available for free streaming. Hosted by award-winning journalist Phoebe Judge and originally launched in 2014, each episode focuses on a new crime, individual, or story. One recent show, for example, enters the murderous world of the ‘It Girl’ of New York’s Gilded Age, Evelyn Nesbit, while another features interviews with the “Parents of Murdered Children” support group in Durham, NC.

What We Like

  • Crimes and their backgrounds are reconstructed in absorbing detail, strengthened by interviews with experts and witnesses.

What We Don’t Like

  • The wide variety of subjects may not be satisfying to anyone who wants to explore a particular crime in more depth.
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Crimetown: A True Crime Podcast for Fans of The Wire

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 Crimetown is the perfect podcast for those who take a more structural, environmental view of crime.

Coming from the creators of HBO’s The Jinx, Crimetown is a true crime podcast with an original, wide-lensed angle. It doesn’t look at specific crimes but rather the ‘crime culture’ of specific towns, which provide the focus for each season. The first series analyzed the crime in Providence, Rhode Island, where corrupt mayors were no less criminal than mob bosses. Hosted (and produced) by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling, its gritty portrait of crime within a single city make it the podcast, non-fiction equivalent of The Wire.

What We Like

  • The ability to put crime in a wider political and economic context.

What We Don’t Like

  • May not appeal to those who don’t have much interest in the cities covered.
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In the Dark: A True Crime Podcast that Tackles Flawed Investigations

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 In the Dark exposes flaws and holes in criminal investigations.

The recipient of a Peabody Award, In the Dark is another true crime podcast that spends each of its seasons placing a magnifying glass over a single unexplained crime. It’s hosted by investigative reporter Madeleine Baran, and it very much takes an investigative approach to its crimes, which in both seasons relate as much to failures of law and justice as to the ugliness of crime. Its latest season examines just why the same suspect has faced trial for a quadruple murder six times, using of multiple witnesses and careful narration to provide a vivid picture of the respective crimes.

What We Like

  • Its careful investigations of investigations.

What We Don’t Like

  • Its focus on the conduct of investigations may not be satisfying to those more interested in the crimes themselves.


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Swindled: Best Podcast for White-Collar Crime

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 Swindled’s look into everyday corporate crime makes it one of the truest crime podcasts.

In contrast to true crime podcasts about murders and disappearances, Swindled is a podcast that focuses on white-collar crime, such as fraud, insider trading, bribery, and so on. Hosted by the anonymous “Concerned Citizen,” its attraction lies largely in its ability to penetrate below the surface of corporate America, using steely narration and archive recordings to expose corruption in a highly gripping way.

What We Like

  • Its engrossing insight into some of the most outlandish scams and corporate injustices in recent history.

What We Don’t Like

  • Sometimes lacks a human angle.
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My Favorite Murder: A True Crime Podcast with A Humorous Twist

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 My Favorite Murder will come as comic relief to anyone jaded by the persistent darkness of many true crime podcasts.

For anyone who worries that listening to dark crime podcasts may become overwhelming after one too many gruesome homicides, My Favorite Murder is a recommended antidote. It’s a comedy true crime podcast hosted by writers/comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, who spend each episode nonchalantly looking at one or two murder cases, all the while interspersing their irreverent and conversational brand of humor.

What We Like

  • The relatable and amusing hosts, whose banter prevents the subject matter from being too affecting or depressing.

What We Don’t Like

  • The colorful language, which may be too frequent and strong for some.
  • Discussing violent murders in a laid-back, chatty way can seem a little odd at times.
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Heaven’s Gate: A Podcast Exploring America’s Largest Ever Mass Suicide

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 Heaven’s Gate provides a vivid portrayal of the circumstances that can lead people to extreme acts.

Heaven’s Gate is a crime podcast exploring the religious millenarian cult of the same name, which in March 1997 saw 39 of its members commit the United States’ largest ever mass suicide. Hosted by Glynn Washington of Snap Judgment fame, it offers a thorough history of the cult and of the events leading up to the suicide, making it as much a sociological study of fringe religious groups as a crime podcast.

What We Like

  • The unique subject matter, which is handled in a thoughtful and respectful way despite its extremity.

What We Don’t Like

  • May not be as crime-focused as some true crime fans would like.
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Dirty John: A Crime Podcast for Armchair Psychologists

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 Dirty John reveals the pieces of its disturbing puzzle in a slow, tantalizing way.

Hosted by the LA Times‘ Christopher Goffard, Dirty John is an ideal true crime podcast for those who like their crime stories to double as philosophical examinations of human psychology and the nature of relationships. Its seven episodes all focus on the relationship between divorcée Debra Newell and John Meehan, who met via an online dating site. To begin with, John comes across as the ‘perfect’ man, yet as the podcast gradually reveals, he isn’t quite all that he seems…

What We Like

  • The almost forensic examination of John’s behavior and psychology.

What We Don’t Like

  • The slower pace may not be entirely appreciated by those who want crime podcasts to unfold quickly.


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Someone Knows Something: Another Cold Case Podcast for Armchair Sleuths

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 Always searching for that missing clue or piece of information, Someone Knows Something has a knack for amplifying the ‘mysteriousness’ of true crimes.

Hosted and directed by filmmaker David Ridgen, Someone Knows Something is a true crime podcast that spends each of its seasons investigating a single cold case. In the latest season, Ridgen examines the case of Wayne Greavette, who was killed in 1996 by a bomb contained in a supposed gift he received via mail. No one still knows who sent this bomb, yet Ridgen’s careful inquiries into the various aspects and figures of the case gradually shed new light on it as the season unfolds, while providing a well-rounded depiction of Greavette’s semi-shrouded life.

What We Like

  • The careful unfolding and revelation of new details on each case.
  • The well-constructed sense of mystery.

What We Don’t Like

  • May not be satisfying for listeners who like a clear resolution to their stories.