The Best True Crime Podcasts of 2023



True crime is the most popular genre in podcasting, which makes coming up with the best of the year a huge challenge. Here’s a list of the shows that kept us up all night in 2023: the ones with top-notch reporting, unforgettable people, and the kind of twists that will have you at the edge of your seat. 


The Bakersfield Three

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I recently got completely swept up by The Bakersfield Three, a 15-part true-crime about a group of friends in Bakersfield, California, who went either missing or were murdered around the same time. I started episode one in the morning, snuck in listening time at every moment I could, and was done by the end of the day. The Bakersfield Three moms teamed up, working as one, in unbelievable ways, to raise money for Secret Witness and for sonar equipment for their community—but also to help solves the case, boots-on-the-ground style, and provide each other with support. Host Olivia LaVoice uses their findings with her own, untangling the web they wove before their disappearances/murders, attempting to sort out what happened, what their last days were like, and how everything is connected. Olivia spends time with each person, interviewing the people in their lives. These interviews are devastating. And the thing that seems to connect these people is that each one had one tiny slip that sent them on a downward spiral. The Bakersfield Three is a thorough, intimate piece that unfolds like a door-stopper novel you can really cozy up with, if murder is the kind of thing you like to cozy up with. (My mom started listening and gave the very valid feedback that the first few episodes were confusing. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but hang in there. It gets easier and is worth it.) There are strange romances, three moms that become united heroes, three people who seemed to have everything going for them until they didn’t, and there’s one hell of a twist. I don’t want to spoil anything, but something happens in episode 11 that had me floored. Happy binging.


Blind Plea

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When Devin Gray killed her abusive partner in self defense, she opted for an unknown sentence in exchange for pleading guilty, also known as a “blind plea.” It was a risk she took to avoid going to trial in a broken justice system in front of an unpredictable jury. She was, after all, a Black woman who murdered a white man in Alabama. Blind Plea follows her story in detail from the night of the murder to the night to after her release, calling out the issues with the American justice system and the realities that many people face every day while dealing with them. Episode one was one of the most compelling episodes of true crime I’ve heard, and the pulse of this story doesn’t stop pumping. 


Intrigue: Million Dollar Lover

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Carolyn Holland is 80, rich, and a widow who claims to have fallen in love with a homeless man named David Foute, 23 years younger than her, who has moved in with her. Is this a love or con story? That’s what Intrigue: Million Dollar Lover is all about. Some—like Carolyn’s daughters, who are not having it—claim David has eyes on Carolyn’s fortune. They have reason to be nervous—not only is David much younger, he admits to have being a crystal meth addict and drug dealer who spent time in jail for making pipe bombs that police believed were linked to a possible attack on Walmart. (Dave thought, and still thinks, Walmart was intending to microchip us all.) But is it any of our business if an 80-year-old woman finds sex and love? This is more complicated than that. Carolyn’s love for Dave might stem from her own trauma, which is intricately laced to his. This isn’t just a juicy story, the show is well-made, too. BBC Journalist Sue Mitchell seems to be the third corner of the love triangle—it’s like Carolyn and Dave have let her live inside their world. She hears and observes everything and talks to everyone, making her a character in the story. Million Dollar Lover might be a love story, it might be a story of financial abuse, but it’s definitely a gripping family drama.


The Girlfriends

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In 1995, Carole Fisher was looking for love, so her friend Mindy introduced her to Bob Bierenbaum, a Jewish plastic surgeon who flew planes and spoke several languages. (Mindy had dated him and was passing him along.) He was “perfect on paper,” a fact that allowed Carole to dismiss several red flags, like him telling her that his ex-wife Gail was missing and presumed dead. Carol and Mindy start talking about him and along with a bunch of other girlfriends, start a sort of armchair detective club where they attempt to track down what happened to Gail. It started as a joke. But the dots start to connect and on The Girlfriends, Carole Fisher tells the story of how her girlfriend gang of dicks found more than they bargained for, uncovering truth that the system hadn’t. Much like Do You Know Mordechai?, this is a mystery backed by a group of friends that I desperately want to join. Murder isn’t fun, but this podcast is. 


The Coldest Case in Laramie

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From the people who brought us Serial (Serial Productions and The New York Times) comes The Coldest Case in Laramie, a story about an unsolved murder that took place 40 years ago in Laramie, Wyoming. It’s hosted by Kim Barker, a journalist who was in high school when the murder occurred. This isn’t so much a whodunnit—there are lots of conflicting versions and unresolved conclusions—but more a story about the inherent nature of true crime and journalism, how stories are reported, and how we decide to tell them. There is a lengthy segment of interrogation that will freeze you in your seat. When I finished it, I went back to episode one again and listened all over again, because the twist made me reevaluate everything I just heard. 


The Retrievals

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The Retrievals is a roller coaster of a story that will strap you in and have you engrossed from the very beginning. It takes us to 2020 to a fertility clinic at Yale, where a nurse was secretly replacing vials of a pain-reducing opioid with saline solution, causing the women to go through painful procedures without any relief. And no one believed them. Poignant, challenging, and thought-provoking, it expertly tells not just a jaw-dropping story, but shares the voices of the women impacted—the very voices that were quieted in the first place. Though there are parts that are difficult to hear, The Retrievals’ excellent reporting and production makes this urgent story utterly gripping.


You Didn’t See Nothin

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Yohance Lacour brings us to a 1997 hate crime that took place on the South Side of Chicago and changed his life forever in the compelling You Didn’t See Nothin. The show starts with the day of the attack when Yohance was in his early 20s, writing plays, selling weed, and living with his dad when the terrible media coverage of the attack drove him to take things in his own hands, working with a local neighborhood newspaper to investigate the crime. After a 10-year stint in prison, Yohance is back in Chicago, bringing a new perspective with archival audio and new interviews with those involved. Yohance tells this story in an animated, poetic way that makes you feel like you’re inside a pop-up book. The story is a mix of true-crime investigation, personal memoir, and some of the best narration I’ve ever heard, and it’s winning in every single one of those categories. Yohance steps into this show boldly—within seconds, you want to hear what he has to say, and he has quite the story to tell.


The 13th Step

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Reporter Lauren Chooljian started getting tips about the founder of New Hampshire’s largest addiction treatment network, who was allegedly sexually harassing and assaulting women. For New Hampshire Public Radio’s The 13th Step, she shares everything she found, exposing what could be considered the addiction treatment industry’s equivalent of the #MeToo movement.  But the podcast is also about her own role in an investigation that put her in danger, and the risk that journalists take to expose the truth. The 13th Step blows open a shady world most people don’t know much about, but it’s also a risky project in and of itself, and you actively feel that risk in every richly produced episode. 


Believe in Magic

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Jamie Bartlett of The Missing Crypto Queen has returned with another investigation, this time about Megan Bhari, whose bunk charity (Believe in Magic, also the name of the podcast) wooed celebrities, drew political acclaim, and funded a Disney World trip for her and her mom. Believe in Magic gets dark fast. (Spoiler alert: Megan dies.) And it’s not just a story of two scam artists covered in pixie dust, it’s a story of maybe FII (fabricated or induced illness, or Munchausen by proxy). Much like The Missing Crypto Queen, this story feels like a live wire flicking and alive, and Jamie has invited us along for every twist, turn, and dead end. And much like The Missing Crypto Queen, I doubt this story is over. The podcast Scamanda was topping all the charts this year—I think this one is similar, but better. 


Witnessed: Devil in the Ditch

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Witnessed: Devil in the Ditch is a true-crime podcast that takes you to surprising places. New York-based writer Larrison Campbell returned to the southern town where she grew up to try to find out who murdered her grandmother. But it’s not only true-crime, it’s a memoir of a girl who goes home to find her grandma and how family deals with something nuts, like having a matriarch maybe-killed by her nephew. Larrison doesn’t come down and shake the community members by the shoulders, demanding answers. She listens and lets us observe with her. She’s showing us the town, which allows a lot of the mystery of this case to reveal itself, letting us come to our own conclusions. I would call this a memoir-style podcast that lets us feel for ourselves what it’s like to be in this twisted situation. 


Ghost Story

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Tristan Redman is a serious journalist who doesn’t believe in ghosts—except for the one who may have been living in his childhood bedroom when he was a teenager. Fast forward a decade or so: Tristan is married and discovers that his wife Kate’s great-grandmother Naomi Dancy happens to have lived (and was murdered) next door in 1937. For his podcast Ghost Story, Tristan has started gathering stories from other people who have lived in his old bedroom who report seeing the ghost of a faceless woman. Naomi was stabbed in the eyes, allegedly by her brother, which would make this a grisly true-crime story. But Tristan believes the faceless woman is Naomi, and that she has a message: It wasn’t her brother who killed her, but her husband. And so the true crime story turns into a ghost story, or maybe it’s the other way around.


I’m Not a Monster

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At 15, Shamima Begum left the UK to join ISIS, and for I’m Not a Monster, BBC journalist Josh Baker tracked her down to find out why. This story made headlines, but few people were able to hear Shamima’s perspective—probably because doing so is incredibly dangerous. Josh put himself in the line of fire to explore the controversy of her return, and of the UK government rescinding her citizenship. Even when the series was over, Shamima’s story haunts me, and I found myself relistening to her words again and again. Josh is a phenomenal reporter: he carefully tells this explosive story closer to the source than any of us would want to get. 

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