Wellness

Satisfy your true crime fix with these addictive shows, books and podcasts

Still mourning the end of Serial (season one, of course)? Here are some pop culture recos that will definitely draw you in — and let you play detective.
(Source, left: ESPN Films; right: Back Alley Film Productions/CBC)

Serial. Making A Murderer. The Jinx. If you've dipped your toes into the murky waters of true crime pop culture, you know that to watch and listen to these shows is to become truly, unequivocally, obsessed with them. There's something about a good ol' fashioned mystery — especially when it carries the alluring distinction of being fact over fiction — that turns us into amateur sleuths who will spend hours pouring over evidence and fan theories on Reddit. Which is probably okay, since it's not like we're going to get much sleep with all the murder bouncing around in our brains.

The good news for those of us who are drawn to grisly crimes? These types of murder mysteries aren't going anywhere. Netflix alone released ton of true crime documentaries last year, and has been teasing the second chapter of Making a Murderer. Every network under the sun tried their hand at bringing the Jonbenet Ramsey case back into the zeitgeist (none of which could give us a definitive answer on the pineapple conundrum, though some tried). Plus, fictional whodunits like Riverdale, Big Little Lies, and the Twin Peaks reboot are set to lead the charge in 2017. And that's just TV!

So, in honour of the genre that keeps us guessing (and binge-watching/reading/listening into the night), here are some pop culture recommendations that will help quench your true crime thirst — and let you play detective.

What to watch...

Bellevue

Insular and eerie small town? Check. Feisty, obsessive heroine who just can't play by the rules? Check. Forgotten, cold case that resurfaces to haunt the town just as a new mystery rolls in? Check. This nail-biter stars Anna Paquin (of True Blood fame) as police officer Annie Ryder, who dives into the disappearance of transgender teenager Jesse Sweetland and finds that it just happens to bear a stunning connection to a murder that rocked the town of Bellevue years prior. If that's not enough, the thriller is packed with all the suspense and moody lighting you want from a crime drama.

Watch full episodes Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC or online here.

OJ: Made in America

If you already dug into Ryan Murphy's deliciously campy The People vs. OJ Simpson last year, this Oscar-winning five-parter from ESPN's 30 for 30 series is the natural next step. Artfully directed and featuring new interviews with the case's key players, this docu-series is a comprehensive look at the football star's rise and fall from grace. It's also one of the first pieces of media to frame the case against the race and class relations that led to its outcome, and do justice to the vibrant essence of Nicole Brown-Simpson — who, despite being the victim in this case, is somehow often neglected amongst the chaos of his trial.

Search Party

From the mind of Wet Hot American Summer's Michael Showalter, this genre-busting mystery is admittedly lighter fare compared to the rest of the selections on this list. Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) stars as Dory, a New York millennial with not a lot of direction (but great taste in outerwear), who gets swept into amateur sleuthing when she discovers that one of her dorm-mates from college has gone missing. Part Veronica Mars, part Broad City, Search Party's meta take on our cultural obsession with solving crimes will keep you laughing all the way to its chilling conclusion.

What to listen to…

Stranglers

If you're still mourning the end of season one of Serial, let this deep dive into the case of the Boston Strangler wipe away your tears. Over 12 episodes, host Portland Helmich takes us through the notorious history of the New England killer, who sexually assaulted, suffocated and staged the bodies of at least 13 women between 1962 and 1964, leaving little evidence. With a potentially false confession, an unusual shift in MO that hints toward multiple killers and a guest appearance by F. Lee Bailey, the case carries a lot of looming questions, which Stranglers meticulously unravels one compelling hour at a time.

Someone Knows Something

Season two of this spine-tingling series takes on the homegrown mystery of Hamilton's Sheryl Sheppard, who went missing in January 1998. The podcast finds its heart and driving force in Sheppard's mother, Odette, who, decades later, still works tirelessly to find justice for her daughter. But, it's the curious circumstances surrounding Sheryl's disappearance, like the fact that she accepted a proposal from her longtime boyfriend at a NYE party on live television a day before vanishing, that will keep you pressing play on each new episode.

My Favorite Murder

Hosts (and hilarious comedians) Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark might not have the investigative chops of Sarah Koenig or David Ridgen, but they do have Wikipedia and they know how to use it. Every week, each host brings in a murder (or murderer) that they're especially captivated by, whether it be well-known fodder like the Black Dahlia or the killings of Ted Bundy, or less familiar cases, like the Lululemon murder. Come for the true crime factoids and social commentary, stay for Karen and Georgia's infectious banter.

What to read…

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

An oldie but a goodie, Erik Larson's thrilling bestseller tells the interconnected tales of H.H. Holmes, largely regarded as America's first serial killer, and Daniel H. Burnham the architect behind the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Holmes, who is suspected of slaughtering up to 200 victims, built an extravagant property near the fair's grounds, turned it into a full on 'murder castle' featuring trap doors and gas chambers, and opened it up to tourists. To further spark your interest, the book is being turned into a Scorsese-directed film starring Leonardo Dicaprio. Read it now, so you're ahead of the curve for future Oscar seasons.

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst

Before she became the "poster child for Stockholm Syndrome," Patty Hearst was just your average extraordinarily wealthy heiress trying to get a college education. Then, she was kidnapped at gunpoint by a group of radicals called the Symbionese Liberation Army, and participated in their crimes throughout the 19 months that she was held captive. Author Jeffrey Toobin doesn't buy the whole brainwashing defense that Hearst used in court. His take? "She didn't escape because she didn't want to escape. She was part of the group."

Columbine

Dave Cullen's 2009 book gains new and unfortunate resonance with each mass shooting that plagues North America. While most of us are familiar with the attacks of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Cullen's reading of their massacre strips away the media fabrication that the two were Marilyn Manson-loving goths seeking revenge on the popular kids. Instead, Cullen argues that the boys' aim was much grander: "to terrorize the entire nation by attacking a symbol of American life." It's essential reading, especially as the myth of the white 'lone wolf' shooter continues to stifle important conversations around gun violence, nationalism and prejudice.

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