Hooked On A Serial Thriller

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Surprise hit podcast Serial is back with a new mystery. Amy Dawson falls in love with the first series all over again…

Around about this time last year, just as the leaves were turning crisp, I began to realise that anyone cooler than me (aka, everyone) was tweeting, arguing and speculating wildly about something called Serial. Serial, as it transpired, was a truly unlikely popular phenomena: a thorough and no-frills radio podcast from the makers of This American Life, re-examining the 1999 murder of Maryland’s Woodlawn High School student Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed. Its makers hoped for around 300,000 listeners; it’s now the most successful podcast ever,having been downloaded more than 75million times.

I’m all for a geeky Radio Four programme but arriving late to the Serial party, I was unconvinced such a niche piece of radio could be that exciting. Nevertheless, in search of distraction on a hungover laundry mission, I downloaded the first episode. Within minutes, I was thanking all the spirits that walk the Earth that I had come to Serial late enough to be able to binge on nine episodes in a row. The case against Syed is full of holes but the series isn’t necessarily an attempt at exoneration. I still have no idea whether I think he’s guilty or not – and it seems as if Serial presenter Sarah Koenig isn’t sure either. She just wants to do everything she can to find out the truth.

We’re so used to watching crime dramas that tie up everything neatly. But in real life there is no Poirot gathering us all into the library to explain everything away with a twirl of the moustache. And that’s why I loved the podcast – for reminding me that no story I hear, be it international news or gossip about a friend, is ever really that simple.

The second series kicked off yesterday, this time focusing on Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who disappeared from his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was eventually released by the Taliban in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees. It’s a very different kind of story, but I predict I’ll be hooked.