Crime Writers On...Serial (& More)

Crime Writers On...Serial (& More)

United States

True crime co-authors and real-life couple Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie chat with noir novelist Toby Ball and journalist-turned-investigator Lara Bricker about the blockbuster podcast 'Serial,' as well as justice, journalism, storytelling, pop culture, and the 'Crime of the Week.'


Out Like A Serial Flynn, Etan's Legacy, & Netlix's Shadow Of Truth  

In a jam-packed episode, the panel drinks the hater-aid as they read some of their correspondence. Rebecca name drops her fill-in gig on Slate's "Mom & Dad Are Fighting" podcast - which, ironically, is what the Lavoie-Flynn kids call "Crime Writers On!" A figure from Serial Season 2 makes a cameo, a certain general who made the adamant assertion that any soldier wounded in Afghanistan can be linked to Bowe Bergdahl's rescue mission.  And, after waiting almost 40 years for a conviction, the crime writers take a thoughtful dive into the famous Etan Patz kidnapping case. It was more than just the crime that put kids' faces on milk cartons - it was the social turning point in how parents perceived the safety of their children. In our review segment, the crew goes around the horn on whether or not you should check out the Israeli documentary "Shadow of Truth," now available on Netflix. This four-part subtitled mini-series looks at the sensational murder of a teenage girl, the questionable investigation into the convicted killer, and the rabid public fan base that trolls the Internet seeking alternative suspects. (Kind of sounds like a certain American podcast we've listened to...) Then, in the Crime of the Week, the cops give a fugitive a tumble...and a spin. OUR SPONSORS THIS WEEK INCLUDE: Madison Reed. Go to and use promo code WRITERS to get 10% off and free shipping. Audible. Get a free trial at SimpliSafe. Get 10% off your security system at Total Wireless. Go to The new book A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming.

The Staircase/Michael Peterson Owl Theory, Alford Pleas & A Stranglers Podcast Review  

The panel tackles a HUGE true crime update - the Alford plea taken by Michael Peterson, the novelist and suspected murder featured in The Staircase - a documentary Rebecca contends is the Citizen Kane of true crime. As a bonus, our very own Legal Siri (AKA legal professor and Undisclosed genius Colin Miller) educates us on WTH Alford pleas actually are.  Then the Crime Writers argue about an alternative theory posed in the Peterson case...was his wife Kathleen actually killed by an owl? That was the theory posed in the amazing pilot episode of the podcast Criminal - but Toby's not exactly buying it. (Shocking, we know.) Then, in our regular segment about whether you should watch/listen to/read the latest big thing in crime media, we review Stranglers, the podcast by Earwolf that takes a deep ol' dive into the Boston Strangler case. (Warning: This segment features a quasi-mansplain meltdown and Kevin Flynn doing a pretty convincing trashy Boston accent.) Finally, our Crime of the Week features one of Rebecca's favorite big box stores, a sex crime, and scabies. Listen: This week's sponsors: Madison Reed. Go to and use promo code WRITERS to get 10% off and free shipping. The new book A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming. Kopari coconut beauty products. Go to for 20% off!

YUGE Serial News! Beware the Slenderman! And the Bear Brook Murders...solved?  

The first Serial spinoff, "S-town," will be dropping in March. And we do mean "dropping." Serial Productions says it will release all of its episodes at once...making it one of the first major podcasts to invite fans to binge listen. Will you listen? Of course you will. And so will we. Rebecca brings in reporter Jason Moon to discuss the decade's old case of four unidentified bodies found in two barrels in Allentown NH's Bear Brook Park. A seemingly unrelated murder on the other side of the country may have revealed a serial killer...but no one knows who he actually is. Then the panel goes into the scary, provocative HBO documentary, "Beware the Slenderman." It looks at the case of two young girls who stabbed their friend to appease a modern-day internet boogeyman. So, should you watch the movie?? The panel is split but agrees on one thing: don't watch this one in the dark. Then in Crime of the Week, the only way to foil high-tech crooks is to go old school. This episode is sponsored by: Select Blinds. Mention Crime Writers On at check to receive free samples. SimpliSafe. Go to and get 10% off. HelloFresh. Get $35 off with promo code CRIME35. Book your next vacation home at Madison Reed. Use promo code WRITERS to get 10% off and free shipping. The new book A Divided Spy by Charles Cumming.

No Serial Pardon, Bowe Bergdahl's Trump Problem & The Myth Of Kitty Genovese  

Note: next week we're talking about HBO's "Beware the Slenderman." (Homework is optional!) Pardon us. Please. We're looking into the latest twist in the court martial of Serial season two protagonist Bowe Bergdahl. We're joined by friend-of-the-show USMC Judge Advocate James Weirick (ret), host of the Military Justice podcast. Now that former-President Obama declined to pardon Bergdahl, his lawyers say he can't get a fair trial with President Trump as Commander-in-Chief. Weirick will explain the arguments in the docket, why they submitted a video presentation, and he'll also provide some insight into the clemency granted to Pvt. Chelsea Manning. Also, Lara gives a quick review of the new true crime podcast, Gone at 21. One of her positives: "it's short." Then we'll talk about a documentary premiering on PBS's Independent Lens, "The Witness" (also available on Netflix). It reexamines the infamous 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, the NY woman killed as 38 neighbors alleg edly watched but did nothing. Fifty years later Kitty's brother, Bill, digs into a crime he (and we) don't really know the truth about...including the myth that so many bystanders did nothing. And in the Crime of the Week, one Florida man makes a big mistake when seeking his own presidential pardon. This episode is sponsored by PrepDish. Go to The episode is also sponsored by Madison Reed. Go to and use promo code WRITERS for 10% off and free shipping on your first order.

Serial Appeal Stumble, Journalism Bullies & Suspect Convictions  

Toby's back...just in time to weigh in on the newest true crime podcast fill our ears. But first - the state of Maryland has won the latest round in Adnan Syed's quest to get out of prison now that his conviction has been overturned. What does it mean that they've been granted a "Leave to Appeal" and how much closer are we to a new trial for the Serial season one protagonist? Then, we talk about something a little bit weird that happened during the latest episode of one of our favorite podcasters, Amber Hunt of the Cincinnati Enquirer's Accused podcast. Then we'll get into "Suspect Convictions," and break down what's good, not good, and controversial (among the panel) about this true crime podcast from WVIK. In the Crime of the Week, we're getting frisky in the Granite State - and it's got some goopy consequences! This week's sponsors are: Madison-Reed! Go to and use the promo code "WRITERS" Prepdish! Go to Simplisafe! Go to Audible! Go to Kopari! Go to

Serial Snobbery? A JonBenet Lawsuit! And Scientology & The Aftermath  

When Toby's away, the mice will play...AND talk about all sorts of great stuff. Special guest panelist Amelia McDonnell-Parry gives us a lowdown on what she saw at Adnan Syed's PCR hearing, and why she thinks Sarah Koenig isn't doing the right thing by ignoring new evidence dug up by other podcasters. Plus, our true crime update takes on that $750 MILLION dollar lawsuit filed by Burke Ramsey after a CBS special pointed to him as the murderer of his sister, JonBenet. The panel has some strong feelings about that. And then, Scientology doesn't freak Kevin out, but talking about it does. Nonetheless, we give an overview of the incredible docuseries created by Queen of Queens (and Queen of Nails) Leah Remini, A&E's Scientology & the Aftermath. After our crime of the week airs, one upstate New York man may try to buy every copy of this podcast. Yeah...we know. Sponsors this week: Harry's Razors! Go to and use the code "crime" Madison-Reed hair color! Go to and use the code "writers" Hello Fresh! For a special deal, go to and use the code "crime35"

Adnan Syed's Setback, Serial's Audio Boo-Boo, and a Homecoming Podcast Review  

After a holiday break, we're back. And so much has happened again. In the land of true crime podcast updates, Adnan Syed has been denied bail while he awaits a new trial. The panel talks about that decision. In other Serial news, we learned Sarah Koenig & co made a big boo-boo when putting together season one. Namely: using courtroom audio that was prohibited from broadcast. This time, justice was merciful. Kevin responds to listener reaction to his criticism of "Someone Knows Something." Again, it's another feisty split decision. In this week's installment of "Should You Listen?" the panel weighs in on Gimlet's star-powered "Homecoming." Is this the latest Gimlet podcast to break the mold? In the Crime of the Week, an FBI sting operation on Capitol Hill! The target - no, not corrupt politicians - a bootleg DVD ring. Related: In this episode, Rebecca talks about a news station covering a trial with puppets. Here's a link.

A FEISTY Split Decision: Should You Listen to This True Crime Podcast?  

The CBC's Someone Knows Something is back with a second season. So should you listen? That's the question the crime writers will try to answer. Spoiler: it's a split decision, with at least one of the panelists (ahem, Kevin) expressing a very passionate opinion. WILL CANADA EVER FORGIVE US? We hope so. The good news: host David Ridgen is back for his second interview with Rebecca, and he's really, really awesome. The bad news: after the interview, Kevin Flynn has a meltdown over how much he hates the podcast. It's kind of epic, but at least he feels a little bit bad about it. Also, we eliminate homework for our listeners...especially for those of you who never do it! In the Crime of the Week, a Santa-lookalike is kicked out of Six Flags. Grinch move or totes justified? Programming note: CWO will be off the week of Dec 24 for the Christmas holiday, but will return on New Year's Eve, Dec 31. (No live wedding proposals are planned, we promise.) Sponsors this week include: Sock Club. Go to and use promo code CRIME at checkout. Also, Harry's razors is back! Go to and save when you use code CRIME at checkout.

Crimetown & Westworld Have Us Like Whoa!!  

This week we dive in to two format-smashing shows: one the up-ends the conventions of podcast storytelling, and one that challenges the concept of story telling itself. The panel examines "Crimetown." This podcast from Gimlet sounds like nothing we've heard before. Are they setting a new bar for the traditional first-person investigative podcast or are they creating a completely new genre? Also, the crime writers give their take on HBO's dizzying & dazzling "Westworld." Was the western-tinged sci-fi series about man's inhumanity, a study on free will, or a contemplation of on the power of story? Or just a bunch of cowboys shooting and having sex with robots? Plus, Toby checks his Amazon Christmas list (is your gift on it?). We'll hear from a listener who offers her two cents on the Justin Ross Harris verdict (and then we offer her ours). The Crime of the Week looks at the War on beavers.

Serial Scoop? Breakdown Conviction! Undisclosed Up Close! And Missing & Murdered  

So many gifts for true crime fans this holiday season, as a new batch of podcasts are hitting the charts. Where to begin...where to begin? First, the panel drops a ton of true crime updates. These include a last-minute order keeping Brendan Dassey in prison, a verdict in Breakdown's Justin Ross Harris case, and a newspaper editorial calling for a pardon for Bowe Bergdahl. Plus, Rebecca parties-hearty with the team from Undisclosed and Addendum. The most exciting news comes from "Serial" co-creator Julie Snyder who says their team will be dropping a new seven-week podcast in March. No, it's not Serial season three, but it sounds like a compelling story nonetheless - and Rebecca's got a decent theory as to who will be telling it. Then we dive into the CBC's investigation of the Alberta Williams case, "Missing & Murdered." Set on an island fishing town off the coast of British Columbia, this podcast looks at a cold case from 1989, and the cop (and reporter) who's not afraid to name names. Bonus: Rebecca interviews host Connie Walker about making the podcast! Finally, we go all "Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon" in the Crime of the Week. This episode is sponsored by Sock Club. Save 15% at checkout with code "crime." We're also sponsored by Pass the Pigs by Winning Moves Games. Get 20% off at checkout with promo code "crime."

Writing Crime, Podcasting and More: A Special Live Show  

A Serial spinoff?! A verdict in the Breakdown / Justin Ross Harris case! Brendan Dassey can go home, and then he can't! All great topics to talk about, right? Sorry to say we're not going to get to any of those this week. That's because we pre-recorded this episode at the New England Crime Bake, a convention for crime & mystery writers, on Saturday. Who would have thought all this good stuff would happen after we wrapped? ("So you'll get to it next week, right guys? The week of Thanksgiving?" Well, about that...) In this live recording, the podcasting crime writers tell a room of nonpodcasting crime writers about Lara's cat's chlamydia, how we got started writing, and answer some listener emails and tweets. (Kevin's a hater? Says who?) Later, we pluck a writer from the crowd. We ask Maureen Milliken her about her work and boy, does she deliver! And this week's Crime of the Week is awwwww-ful. Sponsors for this episode include Madison Reed - use code WRITERS to save 10% at checkout Stranglers podcast from Earwolf

Serial Season 3 News? Sort Of. And What's Different About Up And Vanished?  

Breaking: Lara's cat has a super weird disease! For real. Some maybe-news about Serial Season 3 has us theorizing. Was Kevin super, duper wrong when he said Sarah Koenig would never do a true crime story again? Plus, we get a whole lot of listener email and tweets about what podcasts we should be listening to and talking about. One of the podcasts we’ve had pimped to us the most often lately is the hit show "Up and Vanished," an investigative podcast about the 2005 disappearance of Ocilla Georgia Beauty queen Tara Grinstead. But before we get into our discussion about Up and Vanished, we'll first listen in to Rebecca's conversation with someone who knows a little bit about that show - its host and creator Payne Lindsey. Even if you haven't heard the podcast, you should listen to this interview. And, Toby apologizes to a nation. And our Crime of the Week strikes pretty damn close to home. Episode sponsors: (use the promo code "writers" at checkout) (use the promo code "crime" at checkout)

In The Dark's Finale And Our Book, TV & Podcast Picks  

What do people want to talk about? World Series? Presidential election? Nope. The world wants to know what Lara Bricker got arrested for. (Hint: it wasn't election fraud.) Looks like her accomplices left her holding the bag...literally. In our audience feedback segment, the Crime Writers respond to a heartwarming email from a cancer survivor who's ready to take on the challenge of punching one of their least-favorite attorneys. Then, when it's time for business, the panel digs into the final episode of APM Reports' "In the Dark." Madeleine Baran didn't pull punches when it came to the police narrative that Danny Heinrich was just too good at covering his tracks for 25+ years. But is her conclusion too broad? Unfair? (Sometimes investigators know who did it, but can't get enough to make the arrest - as officials have told Rebecca & Kevin about the Stacey Burns "Mothers Day Murder" case.) Finally, Rebecca, Kevin, Lara, and Toby offer up their recommendations about what you should be listening to, reading, and watching right now. Crime of the Week: When it comes to Halloween candy, someone can give you a break - you're just not supposed to steal it. This week's sponsor is - use the code "writers" at checkout!

Adnan Syed's Bail Motion, Sarah Koenig's Serial Choices, Offshore's Big Splash  

Heads up Baltimore City Court! Here comes Adnan Syed seeking a bail hearing. It's not your usual motion, written more like a campaign speech than a legal brief. The Crime Writers dig into the latest in the efforts of Serial's protagonist to get out of prison now that his conviction has been vacated. And a journalism conundrum: IF Sarah Koenig knew about Jay Wild's post-Adnan criminal history, should she have included it in Serial? Also, the panel hangs ten in Hawaii with the new podcast, "Offshore" from Honolulu Civil Beat and PRX. Can a white reporter do justice to a tale of Hawaiian culture and disenfranchisement? Related: Toby recommends reading this article from the New Yorker, "The American Raj," to learn more about Hawaiian history. In our Crime of the Week, the panel shakes the tree. But who goes undercover as a tree, anyway? (Kevin reported on a similar bank robbery story in NH. Watch the version filed by his colleagues.) Plus: mystery solved! Who bought the family-sized bucket of massage lotion? We finally know. Finally. This week's sponsors are: (promo code "writers")

A Triple True Crime Podcast Bonanza - Phoebe's Fall, Breakdown & In The Dark  

Things get back to normal in the Crime Writers' world. They discuss the perils of doing bad accents and explain why they can't do audio book versions of their own books. A true crime update (add your own echo): Burke Ramsey has followed through on his threat to sue over the CBS special on his sister's murder. Looks like the case will focus on one comment from one person. Then the focus shifts to the new investigative podcast from Australia, "Phoebe's Fall." We know that Phoebe Handsjuk dropped 12 stories down a garbage chute, crawled out, only to bleed to death from injuries from the trash compactor. Was it a suicide attempt? Was it a drunken misadventure? Or was it something more nefarious? So far, the Crime Writers have mixed opinions. Footnote: for another strange how-did-she-get-into-that situation, check out the case of a 21-year-old Chinese tourist who drowned in a hotel water tank. Checking in with some of the other leading true crime podcasts, in "In The Dark"'s penultimate episode, the Sterns County sheriff is confronted with their pitiful clearance rate. And the trial of Justin Ross Harris is finally underway in "Breakdown." In the Crime of the Week, don't block a driveway in Australia...even if it's your own. NEXT WEEK'S HOMEWORK: From PRX, the new Offshore podcast. From Partners in Crime Media: a new mystery podcast, "The Disappearance Podcast." If you like "The Black Tapes," and "The Message," you'll want to download this one. This week's sponsor is Errata sheet: The link for Grommet in last week's show was wrong. The correct link is

Amanda Knox - The Documentary And Case That Divides Us All  

Oh no! We went there! The Crime Writers discuss the controversial Netflix doc "Amanda Knox." Why are we still intrigued by the murder case? Does any of the evidence add up? Is the motive believable? Is Knox herself credible? As she says, "Either I am a psychopath in sheep's clothing or I am you." Rebecca and Kevin welcome back Dr. Elizabeth Yardley to explain why the British have such a different (and more visceral) view of the case than Americans do. Could it be they were each seeing a different case in their papers and on their TV screens? Bigger question: how bad are the writers going to get trolled on Twitter for their views? Because it seems some people - not everyone, but some - feel really, really, REALLY strongly about this case and you better agree with them in 140 characters (or the 140 consecutive tweets with which they will flood your feed)! In Crime of the Week...a SWAT team takes out an 81-year-old woman for growing a single marijuana plant. Good thing she wasn't stealing cable TV...she'd probably be dead. Episode sponsors are : - (promo code crime) - the Havenly app (promo code crime) - and

We Stand Accused ...of Loving the Podcast 'Accused'  

Every couple of weeks, other podcast comes along and seems like the heir to "Serial." Few live up to the anticipation. Is it possible that the Cincinnati Enquirer's "Accused" podcast has replicated the secret sauce: a truly compelling murder mystery and the transparent, obsessive reporting which goes into the story? It sure is. Rebecca talks with Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossman about their year-long investigation into the 1978 Elizabeth Andes murder. If her acquitted boyfriend Bob Young didn't do it, than who did? Next, the Crime Writers dish on who was the biggest villain in the case: one of the four remaining suspects OR the prosecutor who dodged Amber for a year. (Spoiler alert: three quarters of the panel is REALLY down on Gmoser - and not just because the "G" is silent.) We get a TRUE CRIME UPDATE from Lara about the official Army findings in the Bowe Bergdahl case. Were any servicemen killed looking for Bergdahl? The answer appears to be no...but then again, we don't really know what we're talking about. Kevin sends out love to all who sponsored his Walk-a-Mile In her Shoes event; yes, he finally completed that mile-long course in high-heeled shoes. In the Crime of the Week: A bucket list wish unlike any other. Grandma, Grandma, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Interstitial music by Uncanny Valleys. Episode sponsors are E-Salon - visit - and Prepdish - visit

That JonBenet Ramsey Special - Yup, We Went There  

The Crime Writers take on what's good - and what's *not* so good - about the The Case of JonBenet, the four-hour CBS special featuring profilers Jim Clemente and Laura Richards and an all-star cast of forensic investigators. We talk about the case, the show's WTF moments (THEY BUILT THE HOUSE??), and dive deep into the potential defamation of Burke Ramsey, who is (in the experts' opinions) a leading suspect in the cold case. We also chat with Ann Bartow, a law professor at UNH Law School and expert on all things defamation and internet speech, and tie that conversation in with issues raised in this week's episode of the excellent In The Dark podcast. Finally, our crime of the week has Rebecca airing an old grudge with her favorite public radio host, Ira Glass. Episode sponsors are the Havenly app (use promo code "crime") and Modcloth (also use promo code "crime") - and yes, we sometimes flub the ads, as you'll hear in the outtakes. Interstitial music by Blue Dot Sessions and Jahzzar. Support Kevin's walk for domestic violence victims in crisis at

In The Usual  

Now that the crime writers are all back in their closet studios after their awesome live show, they tackle the newest high-quality true crime podcast, "In the Dark." It's like "Someone Knows Something"... if someone actually knew something. Rebecca begins by talking with Madeleine Baran, APM Reports journalist and host of "In The Dark." They chat about Madeleine's year-long investigation on what went wrong during the investigation into the 1989 kidnapping of Jacob Wetterling. Even though the podcast kicked off days after Danny Heinrich confessed to killing Jacob 27 years ago, is there still a compelling story to tell? The panel ponders if a true crime podcast can still achieve excellence without the benefit of suspense. Then the Crime of the Week is not child's play. Or is it? Someone needs to go to jail, go directly to jail. Also...Kevin is again doing his part to raise money for a local crisis center. He will "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" and don some stilettos for this one-of-a-kind walk-a-thon. (Spoiler alert: he will likely twist both ankles.) If he raises enough money for his October 5 walk, Rebecca promises to stream every painful step on Facebook Live. Give a modest donation by going here:

Live From The Mall: The Crime Writers Book Club Special  

Yup, the Crime Writers went all in with a live show taping - there was even a real-life audience there to hear it! We talked about our summer book club pick, Laura Lippman's Wilde Lake. Toby also read an epic items list, we answered audience questions. A couple of notes: - Special thanks to the Hatbox Theatre in Concord, NH - Rebecca talks to author Laura Lippman from the 8:08 mark to about 21:00 - Interstitial music was by the Blue Dot Sessions - Some audience questions had to be edited out because of audio quality - Rebecca would like to apologize to her Mom. Stay tuned for the outtakes and you'll know why

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