15 June, 2015

Podcast review: Serial

So this is obviously not a book review. Instead it's a review of a podcast called Serial. Serial comes from the creators of This American Life, an American weekly broadcast which has won numerous awards and is frequently the most downloaded podcast in the country.

What is Serial? It's "a podcast...hosted by Sarah Koenig. [It] tells one story - a true story - over the course of an entire season. Each season, we'll follow a plot and characters wherever they take take us. And we won't know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us."

The first season of Serial, which was broadcast in 2014, followed a murder case from 1999. Hae Min Lee disappears after school one day. Six weeks later her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed is arrested for the murder. He says he's innocent, but is eventually convicted. He maintains his innocence to this day.

When I first got into Serial on the recommendation of a couple of friends, I missed one really important piece of information - the fact that it's true. Not just based on a true story, but actually true. Sarah Koenig spent a year investigating this story, tracking down leads, talking to people, trying to work out what really happened. How I missed that piece of information, I don't know, but it's added a whole new dimension to show. I'm even more blown away now than I was before.

Each episode of Serial concentrated on a particular aspect of the case, whether it be alibis that were offered, motive, the case against Adnan, the short fallings of his defense and the star witness for the prosecution. And it's riveting stuff, even when I didn't know it was for real I was on the edge of my seat, listening intently for that one bit of vital information which would tell me one way or another who was telling the truth here. Koenig narrates her journey, pointing out problems with the case, offering theories and then backing it up with audio of interviews she did with people related to the case, police interviews, court room audio and phone conversations with Adnan.  The website also offers links to documents such as letters, maps and timelines. As you can imagine with anything like this, other bits and pieces have sprung up online with people discussing the case and even trying their hand at a bit of detective work. Reddit has a whole Serial subreddit where you can get lost for hours!

If you enjoy true crime with a real personal element, if you find trying to unravel mysteries fascinating and appreciate a story told really well, download Serial from here. Rejoice in the fact the season has finished and you can binge listen to the whole thing. I'm fairly sure I would have gone crazy waiting for each weekly episode to be released.

It has been confirmed there will be another two seasons of Serial - one to be release in the American Fall of 2015 and another for the American Spring of 2016. There is no word on what they will be about, but given the description of Serial simply states they follow a true story, I would be surprised if they followed another murder investigation. Either way, it will be interesting to see what they come up with and if they can make is as compulsive listening as the first season was.

If I had to give Serial a star rating, like I do for the books I read and listen to, it would get a definite 5 stars.

 *        Did not like it
**       It was OK
***      Liked it
****    Really liked it

*****   It was amazing