Addicted to Mystery: Serial, The Podcast

Podcasts have come to be one of my major sources of new music. (I love KEXP’s Music That Matters” out of Seattle and Sound Opinions from WBEZ in Chicago.) Increasingly, I find podcasts to be an enormously helpful resource for discovering new music and, until recently, I found the music part to be the only reason to ever listen to a podcast. This all changed when I started listening to Serial.

When a coworker first recommended it to me, I couldn’t help but to predict an audio-only version of Dateline, or a very dark episode of Vinyl Café. I was wrong. Brought to us by the same team that produces This American Life, Serial is a weekly podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig. Koenig investigates the true story of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore high school student who was killed back in 1999. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of her murder and is currently serving a life sentence in a Maryland prison. It is unclear as to whether or not he actually did it, though. Koenig picks apart the case against Syed, interviews the now grownup kids of Woodlawn High School and asks all of the questions that I can’t help but wonder as I listen to the story unfold.

Koenig is a skilled investigator but an even better storyteller. She brings to life the intricacies of the case in a way that is easy to follow given the lack of visuals. Her interactions with each ‘character’ in the story are so open and candid that it makes each person feel relatable and inspires so much empathy that I’m both confused and slightly upset by the fact that one of these people killed their friend. Koenig is honest about her skepticism and confusion as she follows each lead and about the fact that she may never learn the truth. You can hear her get excited when she thinks a lead is going to get her somewhere and the disappointment when it doesn’t seem to clear anything up. After all, this investigation is currently underway. The story is completely captivating and presented in a really refreshing way.

I spend all week getting psyched up for Thursday mornings, when new episodes are released. You can download all of the episodes for free or listen online at I recommend getting caught up – Serial is better than any book I’ve read, movie I’ve watched or record I’ve listened to recently!

Hilary Johnston
Hilary Johnston is a writer, event manager and musician from Toronto.
Hilary Johnston