We’ve always been obsessed with crime – true crime podcasts have just made it easier than ever to consume ridiculous amounts of it. ‘Serial’ smashed podcast records with Sarah Koenig’s reassuring, no-nonsense voice telling us the story of Adnan Syed seven years ago, and when it finished, millions of listeners were hungry for their next fix. Thus, a thousand and one investigative podcasts were born – and they show no signs of slowing.
That’s good news for us armchair detectives. If there’s one thing these podcasts have shown us, it’s that while there is no substitute for professional production and great sound quality, genuinely anyone can make a podcast. And some people are even terrific at it. If you’re obsessed with a local case in your town that was never solved, you can get a mic, download an audio editor, and away you go. With a little talent, lots of luck, and a sacrifice to the algorithm gods, you might even get thousands of other people just as fascinated with it as you are.
This isn’t just about entertainment, either. Cases have actually been solved by podcast hosts and their listeners—and not just in fictional books like mine! I chose to make my main character a podcast host not just because I love the medium, but because podcasters get results. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that amateur investigators crack cases. After all, it was only a few hundred years ago that most crimes were solved by the communities where they happened, and justice was reached between the perpetrator and the victim. Why shouldn’t the digital generation use the tools we have to hunt down clues, talk to potential witnesses, and try to find justice for people whose cases were forgotten?
That’s what the main character in my novel Girl, 11 does. Fed up with the inaction of her local police department on several cold cases of crimes against children, Elle Castillo launches her own investigation on a podcast. She picks up the dusty files that have been languishing in a cabinet for decades and eventually proves that with dedication, attention, and public involvement many ‘unsolvable’ cases can in fact be solved. That’s the power of a good podcast—a passionate investigator, plus direct action from the community impacted by the crimes, can often lead to justice.
We’re still living in a pandemic. People are home more than usual and have a lot of time on their hands. We’re all just trying to cope the best we can. And some of us have used that time to pick up a mic, dig out old articles and theories on Reddit, and finally try to crack the cold case in their town that has kept them up at night burning squares into their eyes on the computer screen.
And we all have the chance to tune in.
Amy Suiter Clarke is a writer and communications specialist. Originally from a small town in Minnesota, she completed an undergraduate in theater in the Twin Cities. She then moved to London and earned an MFA in Creative Writing with Publishing at Kingston University. She currently works for a university library in Melbourne, Australia. Girl, 11 is her debut novel published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 20th, 2021
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True crime is something a lot of us love. It’s no longer a taboo subject; instead we all gush about how interesting we find some of the most gruesome and unpredictable cases, proud of our killer knowledge. Because of this, true crime podcasts are a dime-a-dozen. Still, it takes a lot of wading to find one that truly speaks to you. Such was the case in searching for a podcast before coming across RedHanded, with hosts Suruthi Bala and Hannah Maguire. We caught up with the two over video chat, to find out all about how RedHanded was first formed, their love for the weird and wonderful and of course, some personal stories of their own…