Like everyone else in the Western world, Serial got me hooked on its week-by-week reinvestigation into the 15-year-old murder case of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee, but even more than that, it managed to turn me into a hardcore narrative podcast fanatic. And while I’ve found several I really enjoy since Serial wrapped in December, none has sparked that “zomg I have to tell everyone I know about this” as much as “Mystery Show,” which kicked off on May 22.
Hosted by radio vet (and total charmer) Starlee Kine and produced by Gimlet, the media company that churns out other popular narrative podcasts “Reply All” and “Start Up,” “Mystery Show” focuses on—you guessed it—a new mystery every week. What makes the show exceptional though, is the fact that these aren’t whodunit true-crime mysteries, but rather digestible puzzles specific to people’s lives that require more legwork to crack than couple of quickie Google searches.
We’re only three episodes in, but each has been brilliantly executed and really a lot of fun, especially the second installment “Britney,” which might be my favorite piece of radio I’ve heard to date. In it, Kine’s approached by an obscure writer whose book sales are less than stellar—but then spots Britney Spears clutching one of her novels in a 2008 paparazzi photo. Why?! How?! Kine delves deep—utilizing sources, flying around the country, following leads—until the mystery is solved.
And while the podcast might draw comparisons to “Serial,” the tone of “Mystery” is lighter and more human—Kine’s a pro at getting strangers to talk. Whether it’s a customer service rep at Ticketmaster, or a waitress at a neighborhood tavern, she manages to simultaneously get them to provide her with clues she needs to crack her cases, while also getting them to reveal personal details about themselves that makes for really, really good radio.